Friday’s Favourite: The Omen (1976)

It’s October. That means there has to be a focus on horror movies. Because statistically in the western world most people do their unprotected fucking around Christmas time, meaning there’s an abundance of fresh babies out in the world right about now.
And what is more terrifying than the thought of having children?
Accidentally adopting the child of Satan?
I’d say it’s much of a muchness. But sure.

I don’t like horror films, generally. Not because they scare me. Quite the opposite. On the whole, I find them boring. There’s not really any original ideas for monsters, so we get a lot of “forget what you thought you knew about…” set ups; the “but the happy ending was a dream, you’re still trapped in a nightmare” twist is as redundant as the “MONSTER IN THE MIRROR! Oh, no, he’s gone” trope; and being ripped open and having your blood and guts tossed everywhere seems amusing because the characters usually deserve it for being morally vacuous, or worse, just plain stupid.
Sometimes I worry I’m a psychopath. But as anyone with a cursory smug knowledge of pop psychology will tell you, if you “worry” about being a psychopath, then you aren’t one. So instead I’ve started contemplating if I am.

There’s also a huge grey area about what constitutes as a horror film and not. There was a bit of a debate at work this week following the posting of Nancy’s “Top Ten Vampire Movies” article. Obviously there have been hundreds, literally thousands of vampire films. It would be impossible to compile a definitive list of the best ten that everyone could agree on. However, everyone would agree that she nailed the number one position. Apart from this dumb-arse we both know that tried to argue The Lost Boys (1987) is more of a comedy.
What an idiot. I hope his guts get ripped out. And I hope I’m the one to do it. And then I’ll lick up the blood dripping down his stomach as he weeps begs for me to put him out of his misery…
Oooh-wee that’s making me feel frisky. I’m gonna put on a pair of shoes that are one size too small for me, as punishment for being such a bad little boy, with my naughty boy thoughts.
But while he was 100% wrong about that particular film, he did raise a good point in general.

Scream (1996) is a parody, but also a horror. Aliens (1986) is an action/sci-fi but also horror. Arachnophobia (1990) is a family film, but also a… you see where this is going. And yes, it took longer to write that than just to type “horror”, which I’ve done anyway. What a waste of everyone’s time this short paragraph has been.

Poster-omen1976
Source: http://omen.wikia.com/wiki/The_Omen_(1976)

The Omen (1976) on IMDb

So in picking a Horror Friday Favourite, I needed to pick something that doesn’t waiver from that genre. The only reason it took me longer than a second to decide on The Omen was because I thought “Well, obviously it’s going to be ‘The Omen’, but I should probably go through my collection of other horror films to see if I’ve overlooked something”. 180 titles (plus sequels) to consider, only to arrive back at the realisation that I was perfect to begin with.

The distant call off-screen of “Damiaaaan. Damiaaaan! Damian, look at me, I’m over here” is haunting in its simplicity to grab your attention. You’d be forgiven for thinking “Oh that’s nice, his nanny wants to play with him on his birthday”.
Cut to the nanny in a precarious situation, about to do herself a mischief, seemingly apropos of absolutely nothing. (As per usual, I’m not going to give away any spoilers, lest it ruin, or spoil, the film for anyone that hasn’t seen it. Although it’s been out for 40 years at this point, so what exactly the fuck have you been waiting for?)

But it’s none of this tired format of a couple buying a spooky thimble from a mysterious shop, or moving into a schizophrenic’s studio apartment, or researching their genealogy back to Judas Iscariot. Then 30 minutes of doors closing on their own.

Nope. Just Gregory Peck (Gregory Fucking Peck as I like to call him, cos he’s as cool as penguin balls) picking up his son from the hospital, getting a new job, going for a walk, then throwing his kid a party. We’re now at minute 12 and…
BOOM! Nanny expresses her love for Damian in a really unconventional way. That’s how you start a horror film.

Damian’s dog friend.

Let’s just play that off as a drug-induced action shall we, and just get on with our lives.

omen
Source: http://www.thepurpledon.com/the-omen-1976/

“Hi there, I’m the exposition priest”
“I think you’re in the wrong film. Exorcisms are a completely different, and inferior franchise”
“No no, I got it right, I’m here to explain the plot”
“Oh, I’m sorry, please go ahead. Don’t mind me, I’m just calling security”
“His mother was a Ja…”
In bursts security.
“Wait, did you say ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy was a woman?’”

So now we have some intrigue about Damian’s mother. What was he trying to say? Was she a Jackass member? Was she Django, chained or otherwise? Was she jazz trumpet virtuoso Miles Davis? So far there’s a 66% chance she was black. I know the 70’s was a different time, but surely that’s not something a priest should be getting worked up about.

Meanwhile, at the legion of doom…
That supposedly tertiary character, the photographer is developing a bunch of pictures he took with a camera that has a cracked lens. Curious.

Don’t worry. Nanny McPhee is here. She seems nice. Oh, and she hasn’t had dick for a while. That means she’s trustworthy. But where did she come from? Oh, it’s probably fine. Look, she even just said that she’s here to protect him. Thank god nothing bad is going to happen to poor little Damian.

Mrs Baylock: Have no fear, little one… I am here to protect thee.

Wow, this kid really doesn’t want to go to church. He probably watched “Spotlight”.

Nanny McPhee is just delightful. She’s even taken in that stray dog Damian was waving to earlier. Well this is just lovely. And now they’re going to Windsor Safari Park. I used to go there when I was a kid. Ahh, the memories… Me and the Millers all crammed in to the boot because seatbelt laws weren’t really a thing in the 80’s. The fun we had…

FUCKING HELL! I Don’t remember it being like that. Babboons! Fousands of ‘em!

Father Exposition comes back to utilise the Cassandra plot point. Basically laying out exactly what is going to happen should GFP not heed his advice. Does knowing the future enable you to change it? If you’re familiar with Greek Mythology, or the Final Destination franchise, it would seem that no, no it doesn’t. But it’s an excellent tool in engaging the audience, you now believe you know what you would do in the situation, because you think you’re smarter than The Pecker. You poor arrogant fool.

Original_BaylockFacesKathy
Source: http://omen.wikia.com/wiki/File:Original_BaylockFacesKathy.jpg

I don’t mind the 2006 remake, because it is practically a beat for beat carbon copy. The story is unnerving enough that it doesn’t lose much by being updated. But the original benefits from its look and style. When you know you’re watching something from the 70’s or you don’t accidentally find yourself thinking “just text him! You could get this sorted out in a minute”. There’s a sense of panic and futility that is hard to recapture nowadays. Go on, just watch any horror film from the last 15 years, they have to have a line of dialogue somewhere like “oh, damn, there’s no reception out here”. It’s infuriating.

It’s not heavy on the body count, and it’s not overly gory, but even though I’ve seen it a dozen times by now every time the choir and the orchestra starts accompanying the peril, my neck gets all tight with anticipation.

I don’t think I’m a particularly good reviewer, because I find it really hard to talk about what is good about a film that isn’t just telling you the plot. If you want me to tell you why something is shit, I can do that all day long.
I first saw The Omen when I was 24. And it blew my mind of how good a horror film could be that was made so long ago. Devoid of CGI special effects. No “Cabin in the Woods” style archetypes. Just a man learning a horrific truth and struggling to come to terms with carrying out an unthinkable task for the betterment of all mankind. And a really fucking creepy clumsy little lad.

omen scalp
Source: http://grimmreviewz.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/throwback-thursday-review-omen-1976.html

Maybe I love it because the 6th of June, instead of being a harbinger, is the birth date of the best girl I ever knew.

Or maybe I love it because a man gets impaled by a spear of frozen urine expelled from a plane flying overhead.

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One thought on “Friday’s Favourite: The Omen (1976)

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