Richard Donner’s The Omen doesn’t make parenting look easy. In fact, it makes it look like a living hell. First, imagine you, Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) stand to possibly become US Ambassador to the UK (and if you have rich parents, this might come easier to you). Things seem to be going well, right? You even get your wife Katherine (the beautiful Lee Remick) pregnant — which you likely didn’t mind doing, especially when you aspire to be a loving father. However, about nine months later, things start going wrong.
Imagine Katherine loses the child at birth, then the hospital chaplain secretly offers you another child, so your wife doesn’t have to know. If you accept such an offer, how would you feel about it? Well, chances are you’d have mixed feellings already. However, let’s say that, over time, you get strange feelings about this replacement kid, who you have named Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens). Curiously, he never gets sick or seems to have headaches. Then, your hired nanny (Holly Palance) then makes a rash decision at your son’s birthday party (to put it nicely), permanently weirding you out about birthday cakes.
It doesn’t stop there, however. You’re being pestered by some warped old Priest (Patrick Troughton). Damien freaks out about attending a wedding ceremony at a church, fighting his mother violently before he can be brought onto the steps of the cathedral. Your wife also finds out that zoo animals are terrified of your boy, with giraffes fleeing and baboons threatening to attack her car in the safari park.
What the hell is going on? Also, what does that weird photographer guy (David Warner) want? Between him, that Priest, your wife’s depression, and this new nanny (Billie Whitelaw) who’s too obsessed with her dog, you must emphatically ask again: What the hell is going on?!
Wait For It…
Hell is exactly what is going on! It seems your wife is right to regard Damien like an alien presence. He’s not just a bad boy, a slacker, or a struggling musician. As “The Omen” presses on, much of the subtlety disappears, and the happy family seems lost for all time. The mood of this film also lends weight to it. For example, its haunting score, provided by the brilliant Jerry Goldsmith. As the choral voices chant in a sinister fashion, you really don’t need the words translated into English to sense the foreboding of evil (Goldsmith won his only Oscar for this score, by the way).
This movie has been identified for quite some time as a horror classic, and it conveys a lot of traditional horror moods. Nevertheless, “The Omen” doesn’t provide some masked, hulking villain at a campsite or a beast who comes out only under a full moon. Sure, this film has some far-fetched elements, but its somber tones and incrementally evil atmosphere are hard to match.
In fact, it’s so hard to duplicate that, if you really think about it, The Omen hasn’t really been touched much by parodies. It’s like even dumb-ass horror-comedy goofballs are like, “Nah, we should just leave that classic film alone.” It doesn’t help that the film’s production was considered to be cursed.
Overlooked Political Details of The Omen?
Okay, okay, I might be building this movie up too much for first-time viewers. But why the uproar? Well, with The Omen, there’s a little more than meets the eye. There are little subplots you might find, if you’re careful enough to look. For example, this movie actually does delve into politics, ever-so-slightly. Or is it all subtle? Actually, The Omen strongly suggests that evil arises from the world of politics. In fact, Peck’s character is right alongside it, and he actually seems like a relatively good, normal guy. It’s even suggested that the evil nature of his position is practically inevitable. It will lead to turmoil.
Granted, Damien exists as sort of a symbolic element, but this hardly even qualifies as a “crazy fan theory” regarding the first film. There are other hints of underlying political strain. Robert and Katherine are generally on the serious side, and they often end up in some needlessly tense conversations. While this could be a commentary on the characters themselves, and their unique situation, it no doubt also comments on the high-stress nature of his position. Though it initially seems they’ll have it easy, it seems the two are never quite happy. Reality keeps raining on their parade, and Damien’s hidden nature also represents the dark secrets people keep.
Also, let’s be real: Katherine seems like the type who ends up shouting at her servants, especially when her husband is away. She might not be a villain, but she seems to have disdain for people below her “station” in life. This aspect of the story isn’t exactly prominent, but you can see how she regards the nanny during that one key scene. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that such an exchange occurred.
The Great Dilemma and What Wouldn’t Have Worked in the Story
At one point in The Omen, Robert almost walks away from his newfound and terrible responsibility. Damien initially had a loving adoptive family, but now that Robert knows the truth, can he do what he knows must be done? Now, obviously, a movie could be written about a zillion different ways. David Seltzer could have introduced so many elements making this movie far less serious and impactful.
Imagine, if you will. Mr. Thorn getting a little help from a cocky vampire named Andy before he runs out of time. Now that addition would suck, right? My suggesting that could make you roll your eyes, ask, “What in the hell is he thinking by introducing that idea?!” Well, that’s exactly my point. It would’ve been absurd to make this movie any less serious.
The story was very enjoyable for what it was, and part of the drama is the horror, and vice versa. There’s also no movie quite like it. Perhaps it’s not the greatest horror film of all time, but you can’t quite say it’s predictable, and in some ways very interesting. It seems the average first-time viewer will be curious to find out what happens next. It’s safe to say there’s still a lot of mystery in this one, too. Fortunately, it’s safe to rewatch this every so often, too, although it’ll never have the same impact as that first viewing.
What arte your thoughts on The Omen? It’s all for you in the comments!