The Omen (1976)
Directed by Richard Donner

Artistic Value: * * *
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

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When his son dies shortly after being born, Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck), an American diplomat living in Rome, surreptitiously replaces it with a child he adopted under mysterious circumstances, without letting his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), know what he has done. Five years later, Robert, who is now the ambassador to the United Kingdom, is contacted by the apparently deranged Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton), who tells him his son, Damian (Harvey Stephens), is actually the child of Satan. At first, Robert dismisses this man's ravings, but when a series of deaths occurs, and he is shown strange, apparently portentous photographs by a photographer, Keith Jennings (David Warner), Robert begins to delve deeper into Damian's past.

Richard Donner's The Omen may be terribly hokey, but it is still a fun movie to watch.

Many of the film's scenes are, in fact, memorable, and a few are definitely creepy. That in which Damian's nanny hangs herself while the boy is having a party with some other children is, for example, both gruesome and disturbing, and another, in which Robert and Keith pillage a grave, is suffused with a weird eeriness. Still others, depicting various deaths, such as Father Brennan's grisly impalement and Keith's decapitation, are sure to shock and fascinate the viewer, as are those that reveal the strange and fiendish circumstances of Damian's conception and adoption. As silly as the movie is, it is effective in its way. In spite of himself, the viewer may well feel a chill running through his body on more than one occasion.

What is more, The Omen is surprisingly well acted. All the principles acquit themselves well. Harvey Stephens, though he may not be given much to do, is still oddly chilling. Billie Whitelaw makes the Thorn's grim nanny, Mrs. Baylock, into a gratuitously evil creature, and Patrick Troughton is as much fun to watch as he always is. No one in the film is especially noteworthy, but everyone in the cast adds to the tale's emotive impact.

I will hardly recommend The Omen as an impressive work of art, but watching it can still be a pleasant way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Review by Keith Allen

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