Look At Me Damien, It's All For You: The Omen (1976)

As I am approaching the actual date of Halloween I am realizing that there are so many real classics of the horror genre that I have completely failed to watch, particularly some of the works from the seventies, and a whole ton of the films from the eighties.  As such I am going to try to sneak a few more of them in in these last few days before Halloween, and who knows maybe next year I can undertake an entire new set of works and focus specifically on some of the major holes in my viewing list.  The Omen is one such film and I was quite excited to undertake the work, because something about Gregory Peck dealing with demonic children just seemed to be a great concept to me, however, I must admit The Omen was considerably underwhelming when the entire product comes together.  Sure the famous moment of the nanny committing suicide and some of the frantic cinematography lends nicely to a horror vibe, but it is clear that the film has become somewhat dated and despite my adoration for Gregory Peck, it is clear that he phoned this performance in, but I may just chock it up to his age at the time of performance or a lack of general direction to the film.  While I can applaud the movie for being transnational in its concept, it manages to take a great concept of the devil's child and blow it way out of proportion to the point where some brilliant commentaries on evil within politics, the philosophical nature of faith and the problem of assuming the necessity of a child are outdone by laugh inducing beheading scenes and one of the worst replicas of a baby skeleton that has ever been produced.  Of course, The Omen is not all bad, it is generally a better than average movie and I can certainly see why it has accrued such a reputation, I was blown away by at least a few scenes and their cinematography and the message they are attempting to posit is quite ambitious, unfortunately the sum of all The Omen's parts just does not equal what it could have.  For a film about a demon child, Damien factors in quite little into the plots movement.

The narrative of The Omen begins in Rome with the birth of child for husband and wife Robert (Gregory Peck) and Katherine Thorn (Lee Remick).   Tragedy strikes though when Robert is informed that his baby has not made it through the night and has died, but that the church had another child born at exactly the same time that could easily pass as their own.  Not wanting to destroy his wife's happiness Robert agrees to take on the child and the two raise a new boy who they unknowingly name Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens).  During Damien's fifth birthday party his then maid yells from a window of their house that everything she does is for him and then proceeds to jump off the balcony with a noose tied around her neck.  This dark and unusual moment leads to a spiraling of equally bizarre events beginning with the emergence of Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw) who claims to have been sent by "The Agency" to take care of Damien, along with her comes a scary dog who was by no coincidence preset during the suicide.  Robert is then approached by Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) a maniacal Irish priest who warns Robert that if he does not seek salvation that he will die.  A photographer who works closely with Robert catches images of this priest at another event only to discover that whenever he takes his picture an unusual black line pierces through his body, something that eventually foreshadows the priests death by impalement.  It is during this point that Robert realizes he is dealing with something larger, particularly after his wife's pregnancy and eventual miscarriage are visioned by the priest prior to his death.  This realization leads Robert, along with the photographer, who fears for his own life, on a quest to find the origins of Damien's mother, a quest that takes them all about biblical locations and through the deepest bowels of satanic attachments to the church.  The climax is intense and suggests some rather intense things about the state of global politics and would be extremely brilliant were it not for the films roundabout methods.

While I mentioned the political commentaries in this film multiple times, I am more concerned with the films statements on birth and motherhood as they relate to Damien's presence.  One almost feels bad for Damien throughout the movie because the ways he reacts to being near a church or the defeated looks he gets on his face when the animals at the zoo flee at his presence almost seem to suggest that the young boy is merely a vessel in a greater evils actions.  Even the one scene in which you can attach direct blame to Damien for a violent act is set up in such a way as to suggest that it was an outside force literally causing the boy to break out of his orbit and attack his mother.  Perhaps this set up suggests that it is not Damien to blame for the actions, but, instead; Robert for thrusting the child in a situation in order to placate a worried Katherine.  It is obvious that these grandiose issues of demonic presence and evil afoot would have been avoided were Robert to simply be honest with Katherine and tell her that their child had not made it, particularly since we learn he is murdered.  Furthermore, the emphasis that Katherine have a second, sort of replacement, child alongside Damien adds another layer of issue in that one can assume that Robert and Katherine's answer to fixing their familial issues is not to address the issue at hand, but instead to add another body to the problem.  Ultimately, of course, this is completely undermined by the films end as not only is the new child exacted from the situation, but (SPOILERS) so are Katherine and Robert, leaving the troubled Damien to exist in a world in which he is destined, arguably, against his will to do evil.  If only the Thorn's had not been so focused on having a child all would be well.

Key Scene:  It is hard to top the iconic suicide scene, but the cemetery scene sure comes close.

I am not completely enthralled with this film, but to tell you not to watch it would be to ignore its incredible historical presence, and I am sure the bluray looks way better than my watch instantly version did anyways.

No comments:

Post a Comment