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The best of the post-Exorcist wave of Devil movies
on 19 March 2014
1976's The Omen was easily the best of the wave of Devil movies to come along in the wake of The Exorcist's success, relying less on alternating a naturalistic style with shockingly graphic setpieces but instead putting its faith in a beautifully constructed screenplay that mixed a modern interpretation of the Book of Revelations with a changeling story. Like The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby it puts a Satanic spin on parental fears - in this case the cuckoo in the nest and a mother's fear of her own child. Despite the still impressively spectacular deaths, it's less a horror film and more of a supernatural thriller played straight as Gregory Peck's ambassador is gradually led to believe that his troublesome illegally adopted four-year-old son's real dad might just have horns and a tail and be pretty handy with a pitchfork. Although there are still signs that somewhere along the way the film was aimed for an ambiguity that it never really achieves (is the brat really the AntiChrist or just a very naughty boy? Is Peck seeing the truth or going mad?) Its strength is that it plays its premise absolutely straight. It's helped by some fine casting - Lee Remick, Billie Whitelaw, Leo McKern, Patrick Troughton and especially David Warner as the cynical paparazzi whose photos give the film its title and provide its best chills - and is extremely well directed by Richard Donner, who displays a magnificent use of the Scope frame that leaves the film rather diminished in panned-and-scanned TV outings, while Stuart Baird's excellent editing combines with Jerry Goldsmith's sinister score to make the most of the material. It was a tough act to follow, but even so it's a shame just how far its successors fell short.
Fox's Blu-ray carries over the extras from the previous two-disc DVD - two directors audio commentaries, deleted scene, featurettes Jerry Goldsmith on The Omen Score, Curse or Coincidence?, 666 - The Omen Revealed, The Screenwriter's Notebook, Wes Craven o The omen and the first part of The Omen Legacy that's spread over the first four films, as well as the trailer and teaser trailer - and offers a fine 2.35:1 widescreen transfer. The European issue only includes a remixed stereo soundtrack option, however: for the original mono soundtrack as well, you need to get the US Blu-ray, though be aware that it's Region A-locked. Sadly both versions have the same terrible cover art.