The Omen was directed by Richard Donner from a script by David Seltzer. Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Holly Palance, Harvey Stephens, Billy Whitelaw, and David Warner star.
Katherine Thorn gives birth to a baby that dies shortly after. To spare her the grief of having lost a child, her husband, Robert, substitutes an orphaned child. He is named Damien. They live in peaceful bliss for five years. But after receiving the ambassadorship to England and moving into a new house, bizarre events begin to occur. The nanny hangs herself, proclaiming that it’s “all for Damien.” Damien reacts poorly to being near a church. Baboons go crazy at a visit to the zoo. Shortly after the arrival of a new nanny, Robert realizes something is wrong with the child.
This movie is perfect. One of those rare classics, like The Exorcist and The Shining, that stands the test of time and is just as frightening now as it was when it was released. The suspense build steadily the entire film until it explodes into an amazing finale. The ending shot is iconic and chilling. It helps that the movie is grounded in reality. Nothing that happens in the movie couldn’t happen in real life. That makes it much scarier. Adding to the fright is the brilliant score by Jerry Goldsmith. It’s terrifying and really adds to the atmosphere of the movie. Like the theme in Halloween, music can really help set a mood and build up the tension.
The basis of the movie is this loving family that has awful things happen to it. Gregory and Lee have amazing chemistry and their love is very believable. Gregory, who came out of retirement for this role and actually had lost his son to suicide the year before filming, gives the film a gravitas many actors couldn’t. His most iconic role had been Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and that knowledge certainly helped make the picture believable. Lee was perfect as the mother. We see her begin to unravel as more bizarre things begin to happen and we see her animosity against Damien grow. It culminates to her decision to not have anymore children. It’s all the more heartbreaking knowing she is unknowingly raising a child that isn’t actually hers.
The rest of the cast is also brilliant. Billie as Mrs. Baylock is pure evil. From the moment she steps into the movie you can tell she has bad intentions. And she does an amazing job in the role. David Warner as Jennings is the grounding force in realistically explaining the strange goings-on. Harvey Stephens as little Damien exudes an air of innocence with just enough of a touch of evil for you to believe that he might be behind some of the events of the film.
The practical effects in the film are also well done. The hanging of the nanny looks so real and a decapitation later in the film is so shocking that you’ll wonder how they did it.
The Omen (1976) is one of the rare horror films to more than earn 10/10. It feels real and is truly scary. This is definitely a film every horror fan should see at least once in their lives.