Wednesday, October 14, 2015

'70s Horror Poll: The Omen

#17 (tie) - 5 votes

When The Omen is mentioned, the first things most people probably remember are Gregory Peck's performance as the adoptive father of the Antichrist or Jerry Goldsmith's haunting, Oscar-winning score. Personally, I always think of what is my all-time favorite decapitation scene - I won't spoil it here, but anyone who has seen the movie knows what I'm talking about (and not just because it's the only decapitation in the film). Released a few years after The Exorcist, The Omen was clearly greenlit in the wake of the earlier movie's massive success, as both movies are rare A-list horror productions with sizable budgets, casts of well-respected actors, and serious-minded approaches to their supernatural subject matter. But while The Exorcist works so brilliantly because its story of demonic possession is grounded by William Friedkin's frighteningly credible, "realistic" approach to the material, the balance between verisimilitude and "Boo!" moments in The Omen is uneasy. With its long, portentous, dialogue-heavy stretches suddenly punctuated by moments of graphic gore that wouldn't be out of place in an exploitation movie, The Omen has actually proven to be a far bigger influence on subsequent demonic possession/apocalypse movies than The Exorcist.

When I first saw The Omen as a kid, my family attended a church that was pretty big on Revelations and such. After the movie left me feeling pretty anxious, I asked one of the Bible studies teachers if the end times would be like the movie and was assured that, yes, the Antichrist's return will be much like that. Now, I'm pretty sure that, if Satan were to return, it'd probably be less pulpy. Not that I'm knocking the movie - I actually enjoy it most when it's at its most disreputable, especially the over-the-top death scenes and Billie Whitelaw's hilariously weird performance as Damian's nanny. I also have a soft spot for the more shameless trashiness of the sequels. While The Omen isn't a favorite of mine, it mostly holds up well as a reminder of the brief moment when horror movies flirted with respectability.

U.S. Release Date: June 25, 1976 (Also released that week: Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson; Logan's Run; Murder by Death)

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