You’d think that I’d have already seen this one, but somehow it had slipped through my viewing history. I don’t suppose you need much context for the film: along with The Shining and The Exorcist, it must be one of the most-watched and best-known horror movies ever made.
Last night I finally got around to it. It was dark, I turned the lights down, I settled into my couch and… nearly fell asleep. I’m not sure whether it’s just that the effects have aged, or whether the basic content of the film has diffused so thoroughly through the genre that every moment felt cliched, or what… but I found it hard to get invested enough to be scared, or care too much when people got killed. I’d go so far as to say that there was a tiresome feeling of inevitability about most of the deaths. There’s a terrific satiric death scene in Austin Powers where a henchman is run down by a roller moving at about 0.5m/s, but just can’t seem to stop screaming and take one step to the left – the two set-piece effect deaths scenes in the Omen now seem hardly more serious.
Really the only effective scene in the whole film for me was the first Nanny’s suicide. Suicide is always a bit scary and a bit creepy, and they didn’t get that wrong. However, I felt like they hugely under-played the aftermath to the death. Such a major event should have been the start of a cascade of portents, but instead the film moves briskly on, really only using that dramatic moment to allow the implantation of another cultist as the new nanny. Then the movie virtually unwinds the tension, unless you’re frightened by Patrick Troughton’s semi-Irish accent, until Thorn meets up with Jennings and they go on their road trip.
All in all, the whole thing seems like something that would have made a great episode of The Twilight Zone, rather than being a celebrated horror film.
(Just as an aside here, The Shining is similarly lethargic in pace, but I think that it uses that lethargy to build tension and to create investment and interest. Kubrik is a master of using long shots and slow pace to create what I can only somewhat weakly describe as a cinematic effect that is totally missing from the Omen. The Omen, feels, similarly poor described, televisual.)