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We've all heard about The Omen. We all know just how iconic this film is. We've all been told how horrifying it can be. We've all been told about how goddamn creepy the child is in this film. We've heard it all. Or so I thought. As it turns out, I was not prepared for this movie. I knew of it, but not what it was about. Nobody ever told me the plot of this movie, and for that, I'm grateful. The Omen is a great movie. It's just so great. Really, it is. If you haven't seen it, you're seriously missing out. I know I was.
The Omen follows the story of an American ambassador named Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck). His wife (Lee Remick) recently gave birth to a baby, but the baby didn't make it through the birth. Katherine, his wife, isn't aware of this, and so a priest (Patrick Troughton) informs Robert that a single mother passed away that morning as well, and her baby is now left without a family. Robert adopts the baby without his wife's knowledge, hoping to go on with their lives as if nothing happened. Five years later, strange things begin to occur, all revolving around their child, Damien (Harvey Stephens). Robert starts to investigate the occurrences, and the information he receives leads him to believe that his adopted child may just be a reincarnation of the devil himself.
The Omen is one of director Richard Donner's best movies. He just feels at home with this film, providing us with some of the best cinematography in the history of horror. Seriously, the camera movement in this film is unreal. Donner uses plenty of long, moving takes, maintaining our interest all while providing us with something gorgeous to look at. Then, during the more intense or graphic scenes, or simply the key moments, Donner utilises more and more angles, cutting rapidly between them in the style of Psycho's famous shower scene.
Without the actor's giving a good performance, however, these long takes just simply wouldn't be as impressive. Seeing an actor mumble through their lines for a solid minute without any cuts isn't something to be impressed with. It would be considered an audition tape. But when the performances are as fantastic as they are here, the long shots just manage to blow me even further away. Not a single person involved with this movie isn't on their a-game, and it really shows in the final product.
Gregory Peck, as previously mentioned, plays a man named Robert. His character is smart and confident, dressed to impress while maintaining a particular maturity about everything. As we discover more and more about the actual plot at hand, Robert is driven into a state of distress. He's not necessarily going insane, but it's certainly getting to his head, and Peck couldn't have given a better performance if he tried. It's not on the same level as that in To Kill A Mockingbird, but it's not too far behind, either, and that's something that's rather impressive to achieve.
But it's Harvey Stephens as Damien who provided the most surprising performance. This kid is the devil and Stephens nails it. At only five years old, Stephens gives a breathtaking performance, showing the madman in him without hardly muttering a line of dialogue. His performance is nearly all visual, and perhaps that's why it works so well. He's not required to rattle off endless lines, which is perhaps the reason why child actors are often hated on. The less dialogue, the better. Some of these kids can actually act, Stephens included.
As for how scary this movie is, it's completely horrifying. There's no cheap scares in this movie. There's no loud noises that make you jump with freight. There's nothing of the sorts. This film is pure psychological terror from start to finish. The stakes are gradually rising, and as is the suspense. Every new piece of information provided made my heart beat faster and faster, until eventually I could feel it beating all around my body. The Omen is a masterpiece of horror, relying entirely on suspense to do so, and while the final act loses a little bit of its initial tension, it's still a fantastic and unpredictable finale.
To sum up, The Omen is a heart racing experience from start to finish, using its cinematography and lead performances to add to the overall suspense, especially the performance of Harvey Stephens, the actor of Damien. It's a classic for good reason.