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the omen

“When the Jews return to Zion / And a comet rips the sky / And the Holy Roman Empire rises, / Then You and I must die. / From the eternal sea he rises, / Creating armies on either shore, / Turning man against his brother / ‘Til man exists no more.”

Originally advanced screened in the United States on June 6, 1976, Richard Donner‘s The Omen, starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, terrified audiences with it’s hauntingly evil portrayal of the devil incarnate, in the shape of a little boy.

When their child dies at birth, Robert Thorn (Peck) decides to deceive his wife to spare her the grief.  In their child’s place, he agrees to take into their care, another child, born the same night as his biological child died.  Unbeknownst to him, or to his wife, Kathy, the child is the seed of Satan.  As Damien, their “adopted” child begins to grow, it sets in motion a chain of unfortunate, and deadly, events from which neither Robert nor his wife, Kathy, can escape.

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Many people have heard the stories of The Omen curse – the lightning strikes, the plane crashes, animal attacks, car accidents and the like.  Whether or not you believe in it, the murmurs of such a curse lurking around the production of The Omen did do something successfully, it drove people to the film either out of curiosity or morbid fascination.  Personally, I agree with the folks at deathensemble.com – and since I don’t believe in Satan, how could I possibly believe Satan didn’t want The Omen being made so he cursed the production of and those involved with the film?

Yeah, about that…

You see, the not believing in Satan, or in the Roman Catholic church, poses a significant problem for members of the viewing audience.  But, I suppose there’s two ways of looking at it – a.) who cares if these people don’t buy it, they knew what they were going to see, b.) maybe they’ll leave being a little more afraid of deception, children, and large, black dogs.

Either way, The Omen comes out a win-win for a filmgoer.  After all, devil or no, is there anything more terrifying than a child who doesn’t seem to think twice before harming its own mother?

There are plenty of tense moments, great effects, and the plot is kept moving by well-paced storytelling.

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The Omen made a strong impression on me when I first saw it years ago as a much younger incarnation of myself, one who still believed in demons and ghosts and biblical evil in general.  Now that I’m older, The Omen evokes other, more tangible fears about the cost of deception in a relationship, the alien nature of quietly scheming children, and of religiously motivated violence.

In a way, these two visions I have of The Omen make the film, its construction and execution, a very good one, even after more than 35 years.

 

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