His name is Damien. He has a dead-eyed stare, a strange birthmark, an indifference to the pain of others, and—raised unwittingly by a morally upright Gregory Peck—he has been sent here by Satan and 20th Century Fox to create a new franchise. He was not horror cinema’s first creepy child, and certainly wouldn’t be its last. But after The Omen opened in 1976, he became arguably its most iconic.
In truth, The Omen today is a film that’s more “iconic” than “great,” pulling textures and elements from Don’t Look Now (1973), The Exorcist (1973), and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and making them a bit more pop, a bit more kitsch, and a bit more safe—if you show it at a movie night, there’s less of a chance you’ll deeply unsettle any of your friends than if you have the hubris to pick something that’s “out there.” But the virtues of the film shouldn’t be ignored. Gregory Peck brings gravitas wherever he goes, and it gives the script a touch more prestige than it deserves. The sound design is creepy. The gothic imagery shows how a good color scheme goes a long way. And Jerry Goldsmith got a song called “Ave Satani” nominated for an Academy Award (I sincerely hope it was performed during the ceremony, to turn the Oscars into the dark ritual they always kind of are).
The Omen‘s biggest drawback today is that it feels light; its strongest impression is that, eight years and six Black Sabbath albums after Rosemary’s Baby, fictionally giving birth to the Antichrist had gone from a queasy metaphor to a fun hobby. So I wish it did more with the themes it touches on but leaves largely unexplored: the psychodrama of being locked in a battle with your own offspring, and the sneaking suspicion that 1976 looked pretty close to Armageddon already.
Halloween Countdown is an annual, personal, and highly unoriginal tradition where I write fast, extemporaneous reviews of 20 prominent but random horror movies during the month of October.