The Omen (1976)

Ah, the original Damien trilogy. I don’t really hold any real nostalgia for the first three movies in the Omen series. I’ve seen all of them only once before, and they didn’t leave an impact to me the same way as say the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise did when I was growing up, but the Omen trilogy does still hold this odd sense of excitement about them whenever I happen to stumble across one of the movies, probably stemming from the universal excitement of staying up late as a child, secretly watching horror movies even after your parents told you not to. Considering all of this, it was an interesting feeling to come back to the films with a blank memory and fresh set of eyes.

The thing that struck me the most was how slow paced and toned down the first movie actually is. Donner really lets the story simmer and takes his time to build up the suspense, instead of relying on cheap gimmicks and scares, allowing everything to develop naturally. I especially liked how Damien is allowed to remain very ambiguous throughout the movie, and how much they spent of the beginning just showing him interacting with his parents like a normal child, instead of blatantly foreshadowing how he is a rotten apple. Of course they do make it obvious that things aren’t right with him, but the key is that he isn’t shown to be malicious. This way you actually found yourself forming an emotional bond to Damien, which in turn allowed you to put yourself in Gregory Peck’s shoes and experience the same conflicted emotions that he goes through when it is revealed that Damien must be killed to save the world. Even when you knew Damien was the Antichrist, the prospect of killing him was still oddly off putting, deep down you wanted to  believe that the killing wasn’t necessary, that maybe he just needed to be saved from the Satanic influences and raised properly. It was very odd to realize how much I wanted to avoid the idea of pushing a dagger through his body.

The best part of the movie is not so surprisingly the last third of the movie when things start to come to boil and the pressure does not let down until the very end when it’s all over.  The moment when the police catch up to Damien and his father inside the church, just as Peck is about to strike Damien with the dagger, is unbearably intense. That feeling of turbulence does not leave you even as the entire movie seems to freeze for a moment, instead it grows to new heights as the sound of a gun shot breaks the brief silence as it roars, and you are not allowed to see what exactly is happening. Did Peck succeed? Did he die killing Damien? What is going on?! All these thoughts are racing through your mind at ridiculous speeds, as the screen starts to then show a funeral proceedings taking place, now teasing you with the unbearably ambiguous aftermath, until the fantastic coup de grâce: the camera now zooms in on the remaining couple at the grave, and we are shown that between them, there stands Damien, still alive, now under the care of the President of the United States. And then Damien turns to the camera, and slowly smiles at you. Just the perfect way to end the movie.

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