Richard Donner’s devil picture was a big hit in 1976, and 40 years later, it’s easy to see why. Rejecting the dour, sinister tone of The Exorcist, The Omen also lacks that film’s intelligence and gravitas. In its stead, however, is schlock elevated by top-notch performances (Gregory Peck, Lee Remick and David Warner play it straight and true, and Billie Whitelaw is chilling as a modern Mrs. Danvers) and some truly terrifying scenes. A suicide by hanging at a child’s birthday party, an impalement of a priest, and poor Remick’s two falls are memorable, as is the demon child’s first visit to church (he is not happy) and his drive through a wild animal park (they are also not happy). But it also follows the rules of a mystery. Clues are given, investigation follows, and then, terrible dawning. Jerry Goldsmith’s Oscar winning original score rejects subtlety, and even as over-the-top as it is, heightens dread.
Best, any film that ends with Peck about to stab a child with ceremonial knives and an unmitigated win for the devil has a place in my heart.