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The Omen Collection: The Omen Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Scream Factory

The Omen Collection Large

Directed by Richard Donner
Written by David Seltzer
1976, 111 minutes, Rated R
Released on October 22nd, 2019

Gregory Peck as Robert Thorn
Lee Remick as Katherine Thorn
David Warner as Keith Jennings
Billie Whitelaw as Mrs. Baylock
Harvey Stephens as Damien
Patrick Troughton as Father Brennan

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At a hospital in Rome, on the sixth of June at six a.m., Robert and Katherine Thorn welcomed their son Damien into the world. Upon being named the American ambassador to the United Kingdom, Robert relocates the family to London where for the next five years he and his wife raise their child. Following a tragedy at the boy’s birthday party, Mrs. Baylock, a new nanny, comes to the house to care for Damien. Later, Robert is visited by Father Brennan, an emotionally intense priest who alludes to a family secret dating back to his time in Rome. Robert is also being hounded by a photojournalist convinced there is something strange happening. Brennan returns with irrational pleas of a Biblical prophecy marking the birth of the Antichrist and the End of Days. Surely these are the ravings of a lunatic, but a series of bizarre deaths begins to make Robert not so certain.

Religious horror pits good against evil and frequently finds man battling the Devil, either for his soul or to protect mankind. The subgenre got a real boost with the release of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), followed by the box-office smash The Exorcist (1973). Hollywood loves a success story and when people flock to a particular title, it is almost a certainty that similar product will quickly find its way into theaters. The Omen (1976) borrows pieces from the horrors that preceded it and spins them into a larger story in which the Antichrist is reborn as a child protected by evil forces and privilege. Screenwriter David Seltzer (Prophecy) weaves contemporary fears with scripture from the Book of Revelation to chilling effect. By placing the evil inside an innocent and keeping all signs of supernatural activity ambiguous, there is the possibility that our protagonists are descending into madness as new parents fearing their offspring.

Director Richard Donner (Superman: The Movie) does a superb job with the material, generating a growing sense of unease, framed as a mystery/suspense/thriller rather than straight horror. He garners knockout performances from his accomplished cast and subverts audience expectations with his clever storytelling abilities. The film works on a lot of levels and benefits strongly from the cinematography of Gilbert Adler (Dracula), who makes great use of the widescreen format while maintaining an intimacy with the characters. Another win for The Omen is its iconic score from composer Jerry Goldsmith (Psycho II), with his imposing choral arrangements and haunting melodies.

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Gregory Peck (Cape Fear) stars as Robert Thorn, elevating the film with his presence. He played the ideal father figure in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) and here portrays a decent man faced with an unspeakable task involving a child. Thorn is a rational man trying to hold things together as his world starts to crumble and Peck shines in the role. Lee Remick (Anatomy of a Murder) co-stars as Robert’s wife Katherine, the poor woman who wants nothing more than to be a mother, only to be rewarded with something sinister. Rounding out the core cast is David Warner (Nightwing) as photographer Keith Jennings. He is the first to recognize the signs that something is amiss and he is the one who must convince Robert of his findings. All three actors deliver terrific performances that keep things grounded as the plot shifts into the unknown. Two additional actors worth mentioning are Billie Whitelaw (The Krays) and Patrick Troughton (Scars of Dracula) as Mrs. Baylock and Father Brennan, respectively, each lending additional gravitas to the film.

The Omen remains a strong example of horror done correctly, with a skilled director and a superb cast. Seltzer’s script features well-rounded characters and plenty of theological discussion without feeling bogged down with exposition or clichés. The film inspired countless imitators and spawned three sequels, a 2006 remake and a television spinoff. The original picture remains the best in the franchise and still packs a punch. The name Damien has never recovered from the association and if your child is acting like a brat, you may want to check him for a birthmark reading 666.

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