Richard Donner, Don Taylor, Mike Hodges and Graham Baker direct Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Billie Whitelaw, William Holden, Lee Grant, Jonathan Scott-Taylor, Sam Neill, Rossano Brazzi and Lisa Harrow in this trilogy of blockbuster horror movies following the new antichrist from birth to rise-to-power.
A beloved horror franchise in our house, The Omen is a stodgy, classy mix of past-it studio stars, creepy newcomers and grizzled extras traipsing through some very warped biblical lore to deliver us a cavalcade of Special Effects Deaths. Jerry Goldsmith’s overwrought themes, drab international location work and nonsensical timelines. It is hard to think of any other period when a major studio bet so much money and prestige on the least favoured of genres. The only way to approach this series is to rank the intricate kills… so here we go!
1. “It’s All For You”
Not the most spectacular chain of events in the franchise but certainly the most shocking. Richard Donner keeps the hot young nanny floating around in the background for a few scenes, never giving her a featured shot, never tipping the hat that we should keep an eye on her. Then suddenly she’s hanging herself at a birthday party in a scene that comes as a genuine jolt. Smile on her face, no hesitancy. Leap. Neck snapped. A crowd of children and clowns look aghast. Though some of the younger rubberneckers cannot conceal their enthralment. A pitch perfect horror sequence – hits all the right notes.
2. Glazing Decapitation
Iconic! So good that Richard Donner shows the glass pane swiping through a doomed David Warner’s neck twice. Just so those wusses who cover their eyes got a chance to see the fake head spinning in slow motion.
3. Bugenhagen Intro
The rare survivor of the first entry, Leo McKern’s crabby archaeologist is set up in a dynamic prologue for Part II as a potential man of action. After bombing around Israel in his jeep, he meets Ian Hendry for an al fresco chat. He catches this newcomer up on Damien’s devilish existence and those daggers of Megiddo (the only weapons that can kill the Anti-Christ). Exposition out of the way, you assume this salty partnership will travel the globe hunting the child demon. But no… on exiting an excavation, there is a sudden cave-in. Trapped in a tunnel, slowly filling with sand, the pair realise they shan’t be beating the devil any time soon…
4. Pecked To Distraction
Attacked by crows on a roadside. Eyes pecked out. Walking blind into a speeding Mack truck and then flung high into the air by the impact. I’m not even sure the lady in red who suffers this Omen II demise even needs to be part of the narrative. She exists solely to be snuffed out nastily.
5. Elevator split
Definitely conceptualised to try and top David Warner’s decapitation, this comes pretty close in terms of gore and its OTT execution. Again though… the poor doctor is barely in the film before the fates start aligning lethally against him.
6. The Ambassador Will See You Now
Part 3 often has a misguided rep of moving away from those trademark big Grand Guignol deaths. Yet it kicks off with an absolute barnstormer. The U.S. ambassador to Britain gets hypnotised by one of Damien’s cute-as-fuck hellhound. He walks blankly back to the embassy and sets an elaborate trap that will shoot his brain’s out if anyone enters his office. Then he calls Ruby Wax in. SPLAT!
7. Putney Spike
I used to walk my dog in Bishop’s Park where Patrick Troughton famously gets impaled by a church spike.
8. Switching Locomotive
Top Tip: If you are driven crazy by the thought that your boss’ nephew is the devil incarnate AND can cause fatal accidents at will, then maybe… just maybe… don’t stand on the train tracks when waiting around the rolling stock yards.
9. Massacre of the Nazarene
A kid’s ball instigates a pram hit-and-run. A priest absent mindedly drown a baby during a baptism. A creepy montage of infant murders where the followers of Thorn cause a series of accidents to kill off any boys born on a certain day. Followed by a third act reprise, where a mother is compelled to kill her own baby who has slipped through the net. The Final Conflict is full of cruel immoral shit like this and it presents it with a curious non-judgmental air. As if it knows some of us might be rooting for Sam Neill’s dark tyrant more than the incompetent forces of light.
10. The Bloodhound Gang
No idea what the monks of San Benedetto endgame was when they disrupt a fox hunt to try a lure Damien to his death? It ends badly. One goes head first off a high bridge, the other is ripped to shreds by a pack of dogs. We get to see adult Damien actively involved in a killing. He even rubs the blood of his latest victim on the cheeks of his new girlfriend’s son. Another follower of Thorn is inducted.
Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk
We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/