Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Omen (1976)

Fear 1/5
Gore 3/5
Entertainment 4/5
Creepiness 2/5

Excellent film that rounds out the big three Satan films from the 70's (Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist being the other two). The Omen is kind of an anomaly in that it succeeds in hitting it's goal while going about it in the wrong way. Generally speaking, horror films with big budgets, big name actors and directors and long running times fail to scare, gross out or even entertain. The Omen does all this and more.

The story is a familiar one, especially for the 70's. It's a little complicated, but here's the dumbed down gist of things: A wealthy politician and his wife have a child who turns out to be the Antichrist. There are a number of things that occur that begin to indicate this and eventually it is beyond a doubt and something has to be done. Simple.

The Omen boasts a strong script and great performances, feeling, for the most part, like a very taut thriller and drama rather than a horror film. So when the really bad things happen in the film, they feel really bad and can be pretty effective. The death scenes in The Omen are powerful and jarring - there is a decapitation scene that is tremendously gross and unexpected. On of the most gruesome ever created on film.

Things that, these days, seem cliched and overused originated here and are done so in subtle and crafty ways. The pictures taken by a photojournalist for example, showing the same weird distortion in recurring patterns when taken of certain individuals - this has since been used in nearly every J-Horror film that fuses horror with technology. The menacing animals that guard the son, the smiling and creepy suicide scene, the terrified animals that attack Damien and his family in the car, the freakout scene as the family tries to go to church - all done so well here and used, afterwards, in countless other films about the supernatural.

The film's willingness to challenge accepted Hollywood taboos works to it's advantage as well. While it, again, seems cliched today, the choice to make the villian be not only the ultimate villian, but a child, was pretty bold. The child himself is fantastic - a creepy and threatening looking little kid whose cuteness often does create conflict in the viewer: how could he be so evil? Look at those chubby cheeks and that cute lil' hat he wears. Additionally, the film's creators do not shy away from the fact that God and good in general are ill equipped to fight the evil being presented here. Priests are dispatched in nasty ways, a statement that indicates that no matter the depth of your faith, you're going to lose. That should, and I think did, scare a lot of people - especially in the Bible Belt.

And what review of The Omen would be complete without mentioning the soundtrack, possibly the finest in horror film history. Truly chilling and satanic sounding choral arrangements with verses in Latin that translate as "Sanguis bibimus, corpus edimus, tolle corpus Satani" (Latin for "We drink the blood, we eat the flesh, raise the body of Satan"). YIKES.

A classic.

- Complaint Department

1 comment:

Cortez the Killer said...

Absolutely brilliant movie. The nanny suicide scene is still jarring to this day.