The Omen, released in 1976 managed to create an indelible impact on the horror genre. Starring movie veterans Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, with Harvey Spencer Stevens as Damien, they are the unsuspecting couple who find their idyllic lives turned upside down by a decision that was to prove fatal.
The film opens with Peck, an American Diplomat, arriving at a hospital in Rome to be met with the devastating news that his wife had lost their baby during childbirth, who is then persuaded by a priest to adopt a child that turns out to be the Antichrist.
There begins a tale of his meteoric rise to power with the aid of the wealth and influence of his adoptive family. With the help of a nanny played by Billie Whitelaw, and a menacing hellhound, who are just 2 of his followers who seem to arrive at timely moments throughout the films to ensure he meets his destiny, and who swiftly dispatch with all his enemies one by one. The Omen culminates in a memorable finale in a Church at the end of the film when Robert Thorn finally accepts that his son is in fact the Antichrist after discovering his birthmark ‘666’, as the bible says all the apostles of Satan possess, and resigns himself to killing him.
Damien: Omen II was a memorable sequel, and was for many the preferred film, although The Omen remains the critic’s choice, and was indeed the 4th highest grossing film of that year. However, Damien, played brilliantly by unknown actor Jonathan Scott-Taylor, who managed to provide an air of demonic intent that enables the viewer to suspend disbelief throughout the film, with a supporting cast which included William Holden and Lee Grant, who together make this a worthy and highly enjoyable successor.
At 12-years-old, Damien is now living in Chicago with Robert Thorn’s extended family and attending a military academy and is still unaware of his true identity. In Omen II Yigael’s Wall is revealed, an invention of the Omen movies that is excavated in Israel, and shows a series of drawings detailing the various stages of his ascension to prominence. A crow and a platoon leader at the academy, played by Lance Henrikson are among his allies in this film as he continues his murderous campaign.
The third outing for the Omen, Omen III: The Final Conflict, was probably the least successful of the original movies that does not live up to expectation. Sam Neil convincingly plays Damien as a 32-year-old and at the height of his powers. He is now the CEO of Thorn Industries and is excelling in his political career. The 7 knives of Megiddo having been dug up at the Thorn Museum in Chicago, what are to Damien what Kryptonite is to Superman, are now in the possession of a group of priests from Italy intent on the destruction of Damien, and who await the Second Coming of Christ as foretold in The Book of Revelation.
The disappointment of this film was due in large part to the end of the movie, which is fair to say is an anticlimax to what could have rounded off a brilliant horror series. Omen VI and a remake of The Omen in 2006 failed to reignite interest in the franchise, subsequently disappearing into DVD land without trace.
Despite that its influence in popular culture is undeniable, and The Omen remains an intense psychological horror with depth, too often in short supply if many of today’s offerings are anything to go by. Even the name Damien itself will be forever linked to the films and is unlikely to feature on the short-list of names for expectant mothers any time soon!