After the massive kick to the head that was 1973's THE EXORCIST, the public just couldn't get enough of devil junk and the inevitable diarrhetic spewing of low-budget cash-in/ripoff movies splashed loose, stinky satanic turds across the movie screens of the world. But while the knockoffs certainly provided fodder for undemanding grindhouse patrons and drive-in gropers, it was only a matter of time until a major Hollywood studio entered the fray and once more restored big-budget Satan to the big screen where he belonged. Enter THE OMEN, the Bicentennial year's contribution to the genre and the introduction of Damien, the deceptively cherubic-looking soon-to-be archetype of the cinematic depiction of the anti-Christ/evil child.
The basic story details the birth and early childhood of Damien Thorn (Harvey Spencer Stephens), the adorable son of U.S. ambassador to England, Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), and from the get-go the audience is aware that the five-year-old lad is none other than the bona fide son of the Devil (born of a jackal and not a woman, thereby making Damien a very literal son of a bitch). The story really doesn't have much to it other than an ongoing series of "accidents" and gruesome deaths that are all related to Damien, as well as the ambassador's slow and grudging realization that his kid is the anti-Christ, and when one really gets right down to it, the movie is nothing without its shock set pieces. The characters are uniformly impossible to care about and all of the film's elements come off as a veritable laundry list of devil movie cliches that lead to it ending up as an unintentional spoof of the sub-genre's over-the-top tropes. So much so, in fact, that while watching THE OMEN for the first time in well over twenty years, I found myself giggling through much of its running time. Everything about the film — and I do mean everything — is over-wrought to the point of utter ridiculousness, and it's that heavy-handedness throughout that undoes the narrative and eventually sees it collapse into worn-out boredom by the final reel. Among the now de rigueur devil junk tropes that pack this flick are:
- The gruesome deaths of those who get too close to or would interfere with the evil presence's agenda. Often these deaths are the most interesting aspect of this type of film, and that's definitely the case with this one, especially when nosy photographer David Warner is memorably decapitated by a large pane of glass.
- Demonic Rottweilers.
- The creepy nanny/caretaker who's an obvious minion of Satan.
- Wall-to-wall "ominous" Latin choruses in the film's score. When over-used, as is the case here, this element becomes eye-rollingly laughable.
- The seemingly-crazed Catholic priest who knows what's up and must therefore meet a horrible demise.
- The cute demonic child who seldom, if ever, says a word and stares ominously at the camera.
There are more, but you get the idea.