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Satan in triplicate
by Asa Butcher
2006-12-17 10:40:57
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The Omen Trilogy
Richard Donner/Don Taylor/Graham Baker
20th Century Fox, 1976, 1978, 1981
Gregory Peck, William Holden and Sam Neill have respectively starred in each consecutive Omen chapter and the movie series is all the better for it. 317-minutes of Satan’s kid-raising fun is to be had thanks to the contributions from these Hollywood stars and the credibility they all heaped on the brief franchise.

Damien Thorne is the son of the devil. He bears the mark as described in the Book of Revelation 13:18: “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 Six hundred threescore and six.” Little Damien has the mark hidden beneath his thick black hair and also shoulders the responsibility of associating the name ‘Damien’ with evil.

My first encounter with The Omen was during my childhood when my parents told me that the cathedral that frightened Damien was Guildford Cathedral, which my granddad helped to build. However, I wasn’t allowed to see the film until my age hit double figures because neither Mum nor Dad wanted to deal with the inevitable nightmares.

Let’s begin at the beginning. The Omen was released in 1976 hot on the heels of 1973’s The Exorcist that gave audiences a taste for this low-key psychological horror mystery. It was a surprise to discover that this was Richard Donner’s debut feature film after a career in television and due to the film’s success he went on to have an incredible career with Superman: The Movie and the Lethal Weapon series.

The story follows Gregory Peck as the ambassador to the United States and his wife, played by Lee Remick, unwittingly raising the son of Satan as their own child. Peck begins to suspect something supernatural is taking place, but is unwilling to admit the truth despite a number of grisly deaths and freak accidents. With the help of a photographer, played by David Warner, Peck begins to realize the responsibility of killing Damien (Harvey Stephens) lays at his feet.

Peck brings considerable weight to the movie, yet it is Stephens’ portrayal of Damien and Billie Whitelaws’s Mrs. Baylock that will stay with you long after the closing credits. They are terrifying; there are no other words. As the deaths notch up, the sinister atmosphere is cranked up purely thanks to these two actors’ performances.

It is a shame that none of the primary cast appears in Damien: Omen II, although after watching the first you will understand that this is almost impossible. Anyway, the sequel made in 1978 takes place several years later across the Atlantic in the USA, with our anti-hero Damien Thorne coming of age as evil incarnate, a.k.a. a teenager.

Damien is now living with his uncle, played by the suave, yet rugged, William Holden, who sadly died three years after making this film. In a strange twist of fate, an omen if you like, the night I watched Damien: Omen II was November 16th 2006, which was exactly 25 years since William Holden passed away. Spooky! Sort of…

The devil’s offspring has now enrolled in military school and is slowly discovering his birthright, although he isn’t too thrilled with his destiny initially. The idea of free will and choice brings an interesting edge to the sequel, especially when it concerns the son of Satan. Naturally Damien follows his heart, in an evil way, and this leaves anybody hapless enough to endanger his plans or reveal his true identity dead.

There are a few psychologically shocking scenes throughout the film, such as the scene inviting his good-natured cousin to join him and the prolonged death scene beneath the ice of a frozen lake will put you in two minds about ever walking on ice again. Jonathan Scott-Taylor is tolerable as Damien, although it is hard to portray the spawn of the devil and a teenager and still remain likeable. One added bonus for the film is the appearance of Lance Henriksen as Master Sergeant Daniel Neff, one of Damien’s protectors.

1981 marked the conclusion of the trilogy with The Omen III: The Final Conflict and it featured the slogan ‘The power of evil is no longer in the hands of a child.’ In fact, the power was now in the hands of San Neill as the adult Damien Thorne. Once I had cast aside the Jurassic Park and The Dish images of Mr. Neill, I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation of evil.

Part three takes a different approach to the horror series with more special effects in the death scenes and also features the first sex scene of the trilogy. Damien is the Chairman of a multinational corporation and has also become the new US Ambassador of Britain. Damien believes that the Second Coming of Christ has occurred and he orders the deaths of all recently born baby boys, which is a chilling segment of the film.

The body count in number three is far higher than the previous two, probably combined, especially with the killing of the babies. The deaths are highly imaginative and gruesome, plus there are some fantastic scenes with Sam Neill talking to Jesus nailed upon the crucifix in his attic:

Nazarene, charlatan, what can you offer humanity? Since the hour you vomited forth from the gaping wound of a woman, you have done nothing but drown man's soaring desires in a deluge of sanctimonious morality…Your pain on the cross was but a splinter compared to the agony of my father. Cast out of heaven, the fallen angel, banished, reviled. I will drive deeper the thorns into your rancid carcass, you profaner of Isis. Cursed Nazarene. Satan, I will avenge thy torment, by destroying the Christ forever.

It is a powerful scene that will mesmerize and stay with you long after you have returned the box set to the shelf. Another element of all three movies that will also stay with you long after the closing credits is Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar-winning score. The Gregorian chants are spectacular and it is no wonder that the score finally won Goldsmith an Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1977 after nine previous nominations.

The Omen Trilogy is a masterpiece of cinema and features three different takes on the horror genre. It is a worthy addition to any DVD collection and has a number of extras that will entice you to watch the movies again with the commentaries activated.

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Sand2006-12-17 10:13:59
Which makes me suspicious of the Finnish word for apple - omena.
The first introduction of evil to Adam and Eve. I have no idea what this implies for the computer industry.

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