The first film in classic, four-part legacy of terror stars Gregory Peck as an ambassador who is talked into switching his wife's (Lee Remick) stillborn baby with an orphaned infant. When young Damien is Five, the horror begins with his nanny's dramatic suicide. As the death toll escalates, Damien's father, realizing his son is the antichrist, decides that he must kill the boy and rid the world of the evil.
After The Exorcist sparked a lengthy trend of supernatural thrillers, this 1976 horror film scored a hit with critics and audiences for mixing gothic horror and mystery into its plot about a young boy suspected of being the personification of the anti-Christ. (No doubt it's a favorite of shock-rocker Marilyn Manson.) Directed by Richard Donner (best known for his Superman and Lethal Weapon films), The Omen gained a lot of credibility from the casting of Gregory Peck and Lee Remick as a distinguished American couple living in England, whose young son Damien bears "the mark of the beast." Mysterious deaths and unexplained incidents draw the attention of a photographer (David Warner), whose investigation leads to the young boy--and also to the photographer's shocking decapitation (in a scene that has since been inducted into the horror hall of fame). At a time when graphic gore had yet to dominate the horror genre, this film used its violence discreetly and to great effect, and the mood of dread and potential death is masterfully maintained. It's all a bit hokey, with a lot of biblical portent and sensational fury, but few would deny it's highly entertaining. Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar-winning score works wonders to enhance the movie's creepy atmosphere. --Jeff Shannon
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