The Omen is a 1976 American-British horror film starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Spencer Stephens, Billie Whitelaw, Patrick Troughton, Martin Benson, and Leo McKern. The film was written by David Seltzer and was directed by Richard Donner.
American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) and his wife Katherine (Lee Remick) are on vacation in Rome when Katherine gives birth to a boy named Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens). However, mysterious deaths begin to occur soon after Damien is born, causing Robert to believe that his son is actually the Antichrist.
Why It Rocks
- The idea of making the son of Satan disguised as a human boy start manipulating and possessing people to kill themselves is pretty original.
- The film has an interesting premise about a demonic child being born as mysterious events unfold.
- Richard Donner did a good job directing before he would later direct Superman.
- The acting is spot on, especially from Harvey Stephens who plays Damien.
- Robert and Katherine Thorn are a very likable, well-developed main characters as they begin to grow weary of their adopted scenes evil, cruel behavior.
- Jerry Goldsmith's music is well composed, especially the memorable and terrifying song Ave Satani.
- Aside from Ave Satani, the other pieces of Goldsmith’s score fit well for the film’s dark tone.
- Damien himself is an unforgettable demonic antagonist as his physical appearance alone is intimidating and has a very unpredictable personality.
- Many suspenseful and scary moments, such as when Damien mentally controls a nanny to hang herself while she holds a big, creepy smile on her face.
- A majority of the performances are spectacular, particualarly Gregory Peck's performance as Robert and Harvey Spencer Stephens as Damien.
- The horror elements all work well.
- Brilliant plot development.
- Chilling and very eerie cinematography that fits the tone of the movie very well.
- Memorable scenes including a scene with dogs driving Robert and his friends out of the cemetery.
- The poster design looks interesting with a silhouette of a dog underneath Damien‘s body to make the film more frightening.
Box office performance
The Omen was released following a successful $2.8 million marketing campaign inspired by the one from Jaws one year prior, with two weeks of sneak previews, a novelization by screenwriter David Seltzer, and the logo with "666" inside the film's title as the centerpiece of the advertisement. The film was a massive commercial success in the United States. It grossed $4,273,886 in its opening weekend (a then-record for Fox) and $60,922,980 domestically on a tight budget of $2.8 million. The film was the fifth highest-grossing movie of 1976.
The Omen received generally positive reviews from critics and was considered one of the best films of 1976. Today it is widely acclaimed as one of the best horror films ever made. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 84% based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 7.2/10. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 62 out of 100 based on 11 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
However, in 1978, two years after its release, the film was included in Harry and Michael Medved's book The Fifty Worst Films of All Time. It was the most recent movie featured.
Awards and nominations
The film received numerous accolades for its acting, writing, music and technical achievements. Jerry Goldsmith won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and received an additional nomination for Best Original Song for "Ave Satani". Goldsmith's score was also nominated for a Grammy award for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture. Billie Whitelaw was nominated for a BAFTA film award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. She was also awarded the Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actress. The film also received recognition by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Harvey Stephens was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut – Male. David Seltzer's original screenplay was nominated by the Writers Guild of America for Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen and for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture. The film was nominated for the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film and Gregory Peck received the Saturn Award for Best Actor in a Horror Film. Gilbert Taylor won the Best Cinematography Award from the British Society of Cinematographers.
- Jerry Goldsmith wanted to find Latin words that would be suitable for the opening song about hailing Satan and the song would end up being titled Ave Satani. Goldsmith was praised for composing the song.