Each Thursday this October at Inverse, I will watch a horror film and discuss it with Winston Cook-Wilson, a horror film fan and expert. I easily scare so just how much of the film I make it though each will be very. This is Scare Season. ~Haunted Laugh~
David Turner: Wow, he should’ve fucking killed the child at the beginning. Jesus. This week we watched The Omen. I was able to watch the whole thing because, while there were a few scary moments, it was far more me yelling at the main characters than genuine fright. If the spawn of Satan is in your house and within in the first 15 minutes you’re told that it must be stopped why wouldn’t you stop it?! WHY WOULD YOU NOT KILL HIM. I know there was a thing about knives, but fuck it gotta roll the dice sometimes and tango with the devil after his son is dead than wait till he can have his way with you. Okay we can go back a little bit and give proper context, but Winston he should’ve killed the child, right?
Winston Cook-Wilson: Well, David, I think you underestimate the extent to which people (especially people in horror movies) really don’t want to believe in ghosts and the devil and stuff. They will do anything to deny these things, until — usually— someone dies. The Omen is just one of the all-time classics of horror, and invented the template for so many of the one million demon child-related horror movies. I love this one especially because it is not a possessed-child-based film, but that we’re dealing with the actual spawn of the devil. Like a vampire, you have to kill him a certain way, and it takes Gregory Peck — as the father who made the mistake of secretly adopting Satan 2.0 — quite a while to figure out how to be rid of him for good.
The Omen is certainly not the scariest horror movie ever, and even of its time period — certainly, something like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Exorcist is operating on a whole other level — but there are just endless amazing sequences, and fantastically built suspense. For me, it feels in the tradition of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers more than anything else. The tricycle scene where Damien attempts to kill his mother, the moment when the maniacal priest barges into Peck’s office for the first time, the baboons freaking out, the first governess hanging herself… there are so many.
DT: That really does capture why I enjoyed it. This was a thriller with a hint of supernatural and religious elements. That is why a lot of my usual questions of character motivations felt a bit futile in a nice way because obviously the son of Satan isn’t going to die, but also who knows about all these other characters. It was foreshadowed, but maaaaaaybe Peck could’ve survived. Maaaaaybe his wife could’ve lived if she just left for America as far away from the Devil as she could be. Anyway, those Hitchcockian scenes you mentioned were the movie’s best part and, honestly, except for the excursion with the photographer in the cemetery, the movie’s pace kept at a strong clip. I would have to say I’m a bit surprised at how much attention is played on the child, because it is really just Peck slowly coming to terms with a reality that was always in front of him. Why not call it DAD COMES TO TERMS WITH FATHERHOOD BY ACCEPTING THAT HIS SON IS NOT WHO HE THOUGHT HE’D BE.
WCW: It is crazy how little Damien is on-screen: He has like three lines. The evil stare, and those green eyes, are just unforgettable — it’s almost like they asked for a death stare and a few shrieks, and then gave him the part then and there.
Part of the lack of Damien, of course, is because Peck and the photographer (played by David Warner) go off to Italy for like forty-five minutes of it to get deep with occult mythologies and pore over the creepiest corners of the Bible. But the disruption of the pace doesn’t bother me at all; in fact, I love it, mostly because “info-dumps” in horror films, or really any kind of film: when you get all sorts of crazy mythology explained to you quickly and out of nowhere. Like when the photographer, Jennings (David Warner) tells Peck the totally-unbelievable amount of stuff he figures out after noticing a slash across a few photos, and the insane exorcist-priest in the ruins who gives Peck the special knives people need to kill antichrists.
I’ve seen this film three or four times and never get sick of it. This time around, it really made me want to go ahead and watch the sequels, which I’ve never attempted. They are both streaming on Netflix now, though. One of the hilarious parts of the mythology in The Omen is that the Bible, supposedly, reveals to Jennings that the Antichrist will rise from the world of politics to destroy the world. So Damien: Omen II and The Omen III explore the teenage and twenty-something Damien taking over in politics, and taking the world to the verge of the apocalypse; obviously, that seems amazing.
I’m curious what you’d say your favorite single moment in the movie is. I think mine would be both of the main scenes with the mad, alcoholic priest who tries to warn Peck about Damien. That actor’s face and mannerisms are just so unbelievably creepy. Also love when the wind starts whipping around him after he tells Peck outright that his son is the literal devil.
David Turner: I’m down to go deeper in the Omen world, as I don’t want Damien to lead our planet to eternal damnation.