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The Omen

(1976, Donner)
A Biblical film

"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666."

That is the Bible verse that inspires and closes this 1976 horror film. Watching this film as a kid, I ended up memorizing that verse. Heck, I think it's the first Bible verse I memorized. But such was the impact that this film had in me and my brothers as we grew up; one of dread of something mysterious, unknown, but incredibly evil.

The Omen follows Richard Thorn (Gregory Peck), a US diplomat that accepts to take over an orphan baby boy after his wife's stillbirth. What they don't know is that the boy is actually the Antichrist himself, who ends up wreaking havoc in Thorn's life and those around him.

I don't know how many times I saw this film while growing up, but it was a lot. And a lot of it stuck in my mind, aside from that verse: the kid's look, the gory deaths, and that freakin' score, which I still think is as creepy and eerie as ever. Maybe I shouldn't have seen this film at all, let alone so many times, but as a kid that was raised in the church, the fear of hell, Satan, or the Antichrist was as serious as it could be, which maybe adds to why it left such a lasting impression in us.

That said, it had been a while since I had seen it, so I was thrilled to see it was available on Hulu. As I revisited, I'm glad to say it held up pretty damn well. The atmosphere that Donner builds from the first scene is undeniable, his use of light and shadows in the hospital or around the Thorn house, and that haunting scene with the nanny... all of that creeps up on you as you see this evil force engulf this family.

I do think that Donner lets himself go to far with some of the death scenes. My adult mind now found most of them to be good, or even great, but a bit of restrain would've been better. I also have issues with how things unfold in the last act: from seeing a US Ambassador traveling around the globe even after he's been told his wife died, or how easily he agrees to sacrifice his 5-year-old son, even if he is "the Antichrist".

Regardless of those issues, I still think this is an awfully effective horror film that manages to build up a unique atmosphere of dread and fear of things we might not understand. It scared the hell out of me as a kid, and it still creeps up on me as an adult.