US Ambassador Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) is persuaded to substitute a newborn baby whose mother has died in childbirth for his own stillborn son. By the age of five the child, Damien, seems to be exerting a malevolent influence on the Thorn household, suffering a violent fit when he is taken to church and causing his nanny to hang herself. Thorn searches for an answer to his son's behaviour and meets maverick priest Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton), who tries to convince him that Damien is in fact the Antichrist and must be stopped at all costs. The Ambassador at first dismisses this as the crazy rantings of a religious maniac, but subsequent events suggest that maybe the priest had a point.
In 1976 The Omen was a hit among critics and audiences hungry for more after The Exorcist with its mixture of Gothic horror and mystery and its plot about a young boy suspected of being the personification of the Antichrist. Directed by Richard Donner (best known later 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". 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 contrived, 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, Amazon.com
On the DVD: The all-new 45-minute documentary, "666: The Omen Revealed", has contributions from all the major behind-the-scenes players, including director, editor, screenwriter (who confesses the movie was only set in England because he wanted a free trip to London), producer and composer. The latter, Jerry Goldsmith, has his Oscar-winning contribution to the movie recognised with a separate feature in which he talks through four key musical scenes in the score. There's also a thought-provoking short called "Curse or Coincidence?" in which the many bizarre accidents that happened during shooting are related, including the terrible story of what happened to the girlfriend of the man responsible for designing the decapitation scene--spooky. Director Richard Donner and editor Stuart Baird provide a chatty audio commentary to the film, and the DVD package is completed by the original theatrical trailer. --Mark Walker
--This text refers to the DVD edition.