Horror films can create terror through atmosphere or an overall sense of dread through specific incidents within a film that are meant to last with the viewer over a long period of time. The Omen is one such film that focuses on specific events rather than an omnipotent sense of evil. The film is about American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) and his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick). After the death of Katherine’s baby, a chaplain tells Robert to adopt an orphan in the same hospital of his wife’s mishap. In essence, this will prevent the family from leaving the hospital empty handed and will prevent Katherine from knowing that her infant has just died. So the family goes home with an orphan baby and over time strange things begin to happen.
With a run time of one hour and fifty-one minutes it is almost impossible to explain everything that happens in the movie. What the reader needs to know is that the baby is the anti-Christ and as he gets older he begins to cause mayhem. What The Omen succeeds at doing is creating a sense that events are spiraling out of control and the viewer and main characters are on a crash course for disaster. What the film doesn’t do a good job of doing is creating a sense of fear while the downward spiral occurs.
The Omen is very much like The Exorcist in the sense that the themes are practically identical, but what The Exorcist does is create an atmosphere that is terrifying. While The Omen has moments of terror involving gruesome deaths, The Exorcist has nuanced feelings of dread and macabre. The Omen is much more about the characters finding clues and solving mysteries rather than attempting to defeat the devil head on. Of course, The Omen wasn’t created to be just like The Exorcist, but it is very difficult to not compare the two.
While watching the film I never felt particularly scared or disturbed. While I did care for the actors, mostly due to the incredible acting of Gregory Peck, I didn’t feel that strong of a connection with the story itself. The movie is about defeating the child, Damien, but it is so difficult to understand exactly what Damien is. We are told that he is the anti-Christ, but besides some sinister smiling I never really felt scared of him the way I have felt scared of other satanic creatures.
Many people believe that a horror film is only as good as its villain and while Damien has the potential to be a great villain, he has not fully blossomed in this film. Many viewers may be scared simply because he is a kid, but when compared to films involving children today he is very tame. The Omen takes you on a rollercoaster and touches on wonderful plots and themes, but it just felt like it wasn’t scary enough. Was it well designed and constructed? Yes. Were the actors believable? Yes. The issue wasn’t how it was made, but rather how far it pushed the viewers to feel engaged with the story. Fear is generated through so many other emotions like love and hate. I never loved any of the characters nor did I hate any of them, so it was very difficult to feel any fear. Don’t get me wrong, The Omen isn’t a bad film at all, but it just isn’t great either.
Horror island is receiving a demon that has the potential to be the Devil himself, but he is only a child. As we all know when we were children, sometimes we dream of being something fantastical and bigger than what is humanly possible. The Omen dreams big, but simply doesn’t have the emotional potency to grab its viewers by the neck and have us scream for more.
If you liked The Omen, you might also like The Exorcist.