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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Halloween Movie Marathon: The Omen

There's a scene in The Omen (I am speaking about the original, Richard Donner-directed version, the other one isn't really worth mentioning) where I was suddenly very, very uncomfortable and I couldn't figure out why. And then I realized it was because I was looking at the scene from an unknown point of view. And then moments later, I realized I was watching the scene from the POV of those devil dogs who were watching over Damien. And long before I knew what "subjective point of view" was, I was experiencing it. And it was creepy.  Twelve years after being scared to death by the movie, I ended up working for Donner and his producer wife Lauren Shuler Donner. And all these years later, I'm still working for them as a freelancer. They are the best kind of Hollywood people and I hope to work for them forever.
But I was talking about The Omen.
Movies about creepy and evil kids are often very effective. There's the original Bad Seed, of course, but the first really creepy movie about children I ever saw was The Other, based on the best-selling book by Thomas Tryon. (The Other got extra points for being an evil twin story as well.)  There was something truly perverse about The Other.  (I read all of Tryon's books and thought the most effective was Harvest Home, which was made into a terrifically cheesy miniseries called The Dark Secret of Harvest Home. Bette Davis starred as the creepy matriarch of a small town where men had just one use. But more about that on another day.)
Elijah Wood, who starred in Donner's movie Radio Flyer and would later become everybody's favorite hobbit, starred in another creepy kid movie, The Good Son. The star was Macauley Culkin (as the title character) and though Culkin is a good actor, Elijah just acted him right off the screen. Check out the trailer.
The Omen was a classy horror movie, like the original Haunting or the Sixth Sense. It depended on atmosphere and intensity for its shocks and above all it was intelligent. Timing was everything--like the moment where you know David Warner's character is going to be decapitated by that sheet of glass and there's nothing he can do about it. You can't look away and yet instead of lingering on gore, the way a lot of torture porn horror movies would have, we're on to the next moment. There was something ... elegant about the horror and the understated nature of the story helped to sell it. The Omen was a great horror movie precisely because it was rooted in the familiar, in the very realest of real-world settings. It was much creepier than Rosemary's Baby, at least in my opinion. (I saw Rosemary's Baby at a midnight show when I was in college and I was bored. I thought the book was a lot scarier.)
I saw The Omen again a few years ago ad it holds up.  the acting (by Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, and Dr. Who's Patrick Troughton) is first rate. This movie should definitely be on your playlist for the holiday.


  1. Love The Omen. But I love Damien: Omen II even more, even though I know it's a lesser movie. That music is very effective in both films - without it would not be nearly as creepy.
    The re-make was pointless and poor - the leads were unbelievable in the roles as they looked far too young, especially the wife.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more. Ambassador to the Court of St. James is THE PLUM job in American diplomacy. It would not go to someone as young as Liev Schrieber. I have mad love for all three of the movies, with the Sam Neill adult Damien a fave as well.