If there is a child in a horror movie, they're either going to be a victim or the spawn of evil. I've expressed my general disdain for how most children are portrayed in horror. They're either incredibly stupid, incredibly annoying, or both. It's even worse when the entire movie is based around said child doing stupid things and making situations for more dangerous than they have to be. The other side of the coin are movie where the child is evil. These can be hit or miss depending on the the individual execution of each movie, but these have a far better track record than horror involving normal kids. Sure some have kids being possessed or infected with some disease, but you can't beat having the child of Satan.
The Omen is a 1976 horror/suspense movie starring Gregory Peck (To Kill A Mockingbird, The Yearling) as Robert Thorn. Robert and his wife Katherine's (Lee Remick, Damn Yankees, Anatomy Of A Murder) newborn son dies in a hospital in Italy. Unaware to Katherine, Robert is coerced by a priest named Father Spiletto to take another newborn child who's mother died in childbirth. Concerned for Katherine's well being, Robert portrays this new child as their biological son, naming him Damien. Soon after, Robert is named the United States ambassador to Great Britain and the family moves to a fancy estate in Britain. A few years later, strange events begin to occur around the house. During his birthday party, Damien's nanny unexpectedly hanged herself in front of all the party-goers. She is quickly replaced by the odd Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw, Frenzy, Tangiers) who vows to protect Damien at all cost. A priest named Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton, Scars Of Dracula, The Moonraker) begins to follow Robert, trying to warn him about Damien and his true origins. After initially brushing him off, Robert listens to Brennan as he explains that Damien is the offspring of the devil, intent on killing Katherine, her unborn child, and eventually Robert himself. After their meeting, the priest dies after a pole on a church impales him after being struck by lighting. The events continue as Damien, riding his tricycle, knocks into his mother, sending her over a railing and onto the floor below. She survives, but has a miscarriage. Photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner, Titanic, Planet Of The Apes) has been investigating these incidents, discovering each picture he took of the victims foretold their fate. An accidental self-picture reveals that Keith himself is in danger. Keith and Robert investigate Damien's origins, believing that he is actually the Antichrist. leading to a trip to Italy. They discover his true mother's grave, finding a skeleton of a jackal inside. Next to her is the grave of Robert's true son. They open it to reveal that his child was murdered with the purpose of replacing him with Damien. While Robert is away, Katherine is shoved out of a window by Mrs. Baylock, killing her. Robert and Keith go to Israel to meet an archaeologist named Bugenhagen. Bugenhagen tells Robert that Damien should have a “666” birthmark on his body and that Robert must kill Damien with specific knives before it is too late. He refuses, throwing the knives away. When Keith retrieves them, a truck accidentally rolls towards him, causing a sheet of glass to slide off and decapitate him. All alone, Robert returns home to Great Britain. Will he find the birthmark and be able to kill Damien before he destroys the world?
"Eat your damn vegetables!"
The Omen has the perfect balance of suspense and horror. We, the audience, know that something is not right with Damien and can see things unfolding much sooner than the characters. There is danger around every corner and while the characters believe them to be accidents or coincidences, we know the truth and want to leap into the screen to tell them. It's not often that a movie can cause an entire audience to call for killing a child, but The Omen manages to do it. The movie has a relatively slow, but steady pace which lays out what is going to happen without rushing scenes to get to a major event. While that's good for increasing suspense, it does make for a long run-time of about an hour and fifty minutes. While no scenes are unnecessary, the length does get to be a bit much at times.
For a movie based around an evil child, we don't actually see Damien commit true acts of violence. Sure he knocks into his mother, but he never explicitly hurts people. The violence comes from supernatural and natural means, all of which are clever and competently achieved. There is some blood, but not much by today's standards. Keith's beheading is quite impressive and helps bring the movie to a new level of shock. Gregory Peck is very good as Robert Thorn and David Warner is a solid foil. I should mention that the music in The Omen is great and makes the movie far scarier. Composer Jerry Goldsmith (Chinatown, Rudy) received an Oscar for his work and is well-deserved. The theme “Ave Satani” is a combination of orchestral music and strong choral chants in Latin. It is startling and jarring while giving credence to the religious themes in the movie. The ending of the movie is well-done, not revealing too much, but leaving the audience shocked and afraid.
Still not as evil as Snooki's child
The Omen proves that not every child in a horror movie has to be annoying or stupid. While the violence and overall theme is scary, The Omen really makes it mark with subtle looks and implications of things to come. The line "Look at me, Damien. It's all for you!" is a horror movie classic and can still shock audiences today. The movie has a great amount of suspense, but does get drawn out for an unusually long time. The acting and directing is very good and the music is classic. The story is pretty basic and I would have liked a little more time spent on Damien himself, since he is the central purpose of the movie. While there is a remake and numerous sequels out there, make sure to see the original movie first.