WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS BODYCOUNT. HIGH RISK OF SPOILERS. ENTER IF YOU DARE.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Golden Title: The Omen (1976)

Let's celebrate Halloween 2019 with a classic.
The Omen (United Kingdom/USA, 1976)
Rating: *****
Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Harvey Stephens

In Rome, Robert Thorn, an American diplomat, just received word that his newborn child died at birth, a grave news that not only distraught to him but will surely crush his wife, Katherine. Hence when a well-meaning priest offered Robert a chance to adopt a newborn child whose mother died during an operation, he is quick to accept the child as his own, naming him Damien, and his wife was none the wiser.

Five years later, not long after Robert gets appointed as US Ambassador for Great Britain, the Thorns find themselves in an increasingly frightful predicament as mysterious deaths and events start to plague them, beginning with the moment the family nanny commits suicide during Damien's birthday, claiming it is all for the boy. In fact, all of the sudden strange happenings seem to be linked to Damien and it isn't too long before an unsettling truth will come upon the family, as well as to those who insists on aiding them against a powerful dark force.

A prime example of a quintessential title within the 70's Satanic cycle, The Omen (1976) works its apocalyptic narrative through a more subtle and realistic direction compared to, let's say, The Exorcist (1973), a similarly religiously themed horror movie that's made effective thanks to its shocking blasphemous visuals. The Omen, alternatively, focuses more on downplaying the typical onscreen demonic horror elements of nightmare imagery and underworld monsters, in its place instead is a strongly orchestrated sense of helplessness as its plot implies that the Devil's forces may have already got most, if not all of the cards played in the favor of the Beast right at the beginning of the movie, while those who choose to fight against them are doomed to die while their God remains distant or absent.

It's a particularly powerful notion and The Omen (1976) captures this quite intriguingly through its story's flow, starting everything up with good fortune falling upon the Thorns only for it to slowly crumble down as one accident and odd occurrence pressures the family to seek help from both conventional and unconventional ways, leading to either a ghastly death or a revelation that defies rational explanation and leans more on the prophetic. It's this direction that the film revels at and to a good effect, as it eventually questions how much control do our protagonists have to begin with and where exactly does the line draw in regards to what is nothing more than a phase or a pawn to a grand cosmic scheme, which in this case is the Apocalypse as indicated in the Christian Bible. This Biblical concept is justly explored, but done in a way that doesn't feel overly pretentious and still caters to a wide array of horror hounds like you and me.

One of the movie's memorable elements, for example, leans more on the exploitative side of horror as it tackles smaller omens indicated through a photographer's collection of photos they took during Damien's birthday. A lot of these results to well-executed Rube Goldberg-inspired set-pieces that executes victims in spectacular manners, pretty much a precursor to Final Destination movies. (In fact, Final Destination 3 (2006)'s idea of omens through photographs was directly inspired by this movie) Gothic overtones are also strong in this movie's cinematography, done mostly through location shots and gloomy stylized lighting. Add on the Oscar-winning score by none other than Jerry Goldsmith and the effectiveness of The Omen's dark tone is very much achieved.

In terms of talent, The Omen (1976) boasts quite a casts for a horror film with Gregory Peck bringing all he can to the table as the leading man, playing a character determined to dig out the truth yet still holding on to a grounded view to his situation. Young Harvey Stephens, playing Damien,  would also become one of the most memorable horror icons to grace cinema, odd as the child barely uttered a word nor did he did anything gradually evil but his very normal appearance contrasts his grim fate as the Antichrist, unsettling at best as one could never tell, reflecting the written deceptive nature of the Devil himself.

All in all, The Omen (1976) is a classic that earned its place among horror giants. Past the religious connotations and the over-the-top deaths, it is a story that can very well transpire in real life as a possibility, questioning fate and control at a terrifyingly psychological manner, thus a true treat for all genre fans, both in and out of the horror community.

Bodycount:
1 baby died during birth, later revealed due to head trauma
1 female hanged
1 male impaled by a broken-off lightning rod
1 unborn child miscarried
1 female pushed through a window, lands in an ambulance
1 male decapitated by a projected glass pane
1 female stabbed with a fork and knife
1 male shot
Total: 8

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