[Movie Review] The Omen (1976) ★★★★★

Robert trying to kill Damien in church in The Omen 1976

The Omen unleashes visceral terror and graphic violent deaths. 

The Omen is a supernatural occult horror film with a very creepy child that has become a classic. With a great music score, good shots, creepy gothic settings and a psychological undertone, this occult horror mostly plays out on a very subtle visceral level, that creeps into the lives of the characters and into the plot. The atmosphere is full of doom that can’t be diverted. It therefore feels like something inevitable that is very intangible at the same time, which results in a very horrific feel. It’s a great film that also has some graphic deaths, and violent brutal kills, so the horror comes at you from all sides. 

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Robert Thorn is an American diplomat who lives in Rome with his wife Katherine. When she has just given birth to a baby boy, the doctors tell Robert that the baby has died. But then the hospital priest convinces Robert to adopt another baby boy who has been born the same night and whose mother had died during childbirth, without telling Katherine. They call him Damien.

On Damien’s fifth birthday a big garden party is thrown, but his nanny throws herself out of the window with a rope around her neck. The mysterious Mrs. Baylock takes over as the new nanny. Strange things are happening around Damien and when a priest Father Brennan comes to warn Robert about Damien, as does photographer Keith Jennings, he goes on a search for the truth about Damien, while Katherine grows more afraid of her son every day. 

Why you should watch it

The Omen is an occult horror full of suspense. This foreboding feeling is mostly surrounding Damien, but his new nanny Mrs. Baylock is a very ominous person herself. There is definitely something wrong with Damien, but although it turns out to be really something occult, his behavior can be psychological as well. While Robert is pursuing the supernatural plot, Katherine is afraid of her own son who acts sometimes very hostile towards her. While she knows nothing about the switch and of Father Brennan, as a mother she feels that something is deeply wrong. That point of view is part of the suspense of a mother in conflict, and plays out on a more psychological level of horror. 

The ominous atmosphere is shown on a visceral level, approached from the experience of the characters, not per se the creepy camera angles or estranging shots. Although the scenes when Damien is riding his little tricycle through the house is very threatening. With some intense shots, and intense church choirs a menacing atmosphere becomes more paramount and works towards a horrific discovery and wrenching climax. But although the film is focused on atmosphere, the kills are brutal and graphic and are cause for some physical horror as well. The settings, the big houses, the sinister cemetery, the church, it all does have a gothic feel that shouts doom. It therefore mixes different vibes to create an intense horror that is enthralling and disturbing at the same time. 

While it’s all about Damien he doesn’t do much himself. It more about how his parents react to his strange outbursts and how they deal with them. That Katherine and Robert both react in different ways, results in a versatile film that shows the search that Robert and Jennings are invested in and Katherine dealing at home with this strange child and his even more stranger nanny. The search is a big part of the film and it leads them to sinister reveals and dangerous situations, that show the real occult side of the film. 

But both parents are about to face their doom in very different ways. Something has come into their lives and there is no escape. That is what lies beneath the foreboding atmosphere, it’s inevitable and the moment Robert adopted Damien he has sealed their fates. From then on, it’s how they perish by invisible and intangible occult forces that are never shown, only the devastating deadly outcomes. This build up is subtle, with graphic outburst and with a relentless ominous feeling. 

It’s a great story of mystery and doom and plays out in a very enticing way. The mystery, the omens, the dangers it reels you in to result in a devastating climax.

My favorite part

The first death scene when the nanny jumps out the window is a real shocker. It’s something you don’t see coming. It immediately sets the threatening tone of the film, while other scenes like when Damien gets a tantrum in the car on their way to church is both unsettling and something a normal kid could also do if there was something wrong with him. The helplessness and the feeling that she is alienated from her child make it a psychological horror as well, that fits splendidly with the occult vibe and the brutal violent deaths.  


Rating: ★★★★★

Thrill factor:★★★★☆

Scare factor: ★★★★☆

Gruesome factor: ★★★★☆

Originality factor: ★★★★★

Cast and crew

The Omen is directed by Richard Donner and written by David Seltzer. It stars Gregory Peck (Robert Thorn), Lee Remick (Katherine Thorn), David Warner (Keith Jennings), Billie Whitelaw (Mrs. Baylock), Patrick Troughton (Father Brennan) and Harvey Stephens (Damien).

Duration: 111 minutes. Music: Jerry Goldsmith. Cinematography: Gilbert Taylor. Edited by: Stuart Baird. Produced by: Harvey Bernhard. Distributed by: 20th Century Fox.

Check the trailer below

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