The Omen

Starring: Gregory Peck, Harvey Stephens, Jonathan Scott-Taylor, Pete Postlethwaite and Mia Farrow
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: 59.99
Certificate: 18
Available 23 October 2006

All five Omen films are included in this chilling box set, featuring
The Omen, Damian: Omen II, Omen III: The Final Conflict, Omen IV: The Awakening and The Omen (2006)...

The Omen (1976). Directed by Richard Donner:
Ambassador to Britain Robert Thorn takes on the responsibility of bringing up another child after he is told that his own new-born is dead. A series of strange events and bizarre so-called "accidents" culminate in Robert being warned by a rather eccentric priest that his child, Damien, is the antichrist. Finally, Robert is forced to accept the truth, but killing a small child with knives (holy or otherwise) is not an easy matter for an honest man.

It's no exaggeration to say that this is a horror classic which should stand proud among other "grandfathers" of the genre such as The Exorcist, Psycho, and Halloween. Strong performances from Gregory Peck, Lee Remick and Patrick Troughton aid it further, and the set pieces are so meticulously choreographed that they remain in the mind long after the event (and for the best of reasons; there's no gore for gore's sake here) without overshadowing the characters and events. The picture has been lovingly restored. It's a real joy to re-experience the thrill of what was a groundbreaking movie.

I had almost forgotten about the baboon enclosure scene, and even the 2006 remake chose to avoid copying the immortal decapitation by a sheet of glass, with the backwards rolling head. Even after thirty years this original and best version of The Omen has lost none of its power. The script is tight and plays out like a thriller rather than a horror, thereby lending it more credibility with mainstream audiences. And there really are thrills; the set-piece "accidents" are great and were all done for real (no CGI), but nowadays it's the earnest performances which win-over as the film's main strength. A near masterpiece.

Special Features on the film disc include 2 commentaries; Jerry Goldsmith on the Score (and what a great score it is); Curse or Coincidence featurette, and Original Theatrical Trailer. On the second disc of the Special Edition we have an Introduction by Richard Donner; The Omen Revealed (a great 46 minute documentary which reveals a myriad fascinating facts and stories about the filming, including the unexpectedly detailed English production design); The Omen Legacy Part 1; a Deleted/Extended Scene with the dog attack (this contains a commentary by Richard Donner and Brian Helgeland; Screenwriter's Notebook; an Appreciation: Wes Craven on The Omen; and a Stills Gallery. So, more extras than you can shake a holy knife at, and everyone involved comes across as shining with enthusiasm.

Omen II - Damien (1978). Directed by Don Taylor:
Damien is being raised by his foster father's brother, Richard Thorn. He is in a military academy and struggling to come to terms with his burgeoning powers. Paintings have been discovered dating back to the thirteenth century, depicting visions of the antichrist, and in particular Damien's face. As Damien learns the truth about himself, a crow emissary begins to eliminate possible threats to his rise to power. T

he music in this sequel is over-dramatic when very little is happening (which is most of the time). The writers apparently wanted to start the second film with Damien already secure in the White House, but the powers-that-be were determined to show his teen development.

Why does Damien not know his destiny until halfway through the film (and even then he has to be told), when in the first film he was six when his "father" tried to kill him, and would have remembered the incident and the media fuss. Also, he rails at the world when he finds out, but accepts this major upheaval far too quickly and easily.

The acting in this one seems a little stilted in places, but is helped by the presence of some big names, such as William Holden, Lee Grant, Robert Foxworth, Elizabeth Shepherd and Lance Henriksen. The finished product might have been improved by Richard Donner, who was unavailable due to filming Superman the Movie.

Special features are a commentary by Producer Harvey Bernhard; The Omen Legacy Part 2 documentary; The Omen 2006 - Life After Film School.

Omen III - The Final Conflict (1981). Directed by Graham Baker.
Damien has been head of Thorn Industries for seven years, but he discovers from an obscure Egyptian Biblical text that the new Messiah, the Second Coming, will be born in England (where else?!) and do battle with the Beast. Arranging an "accident" for the current US ambassador to Great Britain, Damien secures the post and travels to England to be in the right place at the right time. An order of monks comes into possession of the seven holy knives (the only weapons which can kill the anti-Christ) and set out to rid the world of evil, but the threatened Damien orders the deaths of all newborns in the prophecised location.

Sam Neill is convincing here as the 33 year old Damien. James Mason suggested the relatively unknown Neill for the part, but the studio was not prepared to pay for his flight from New Zealand for the screen test, so Mason felt obliged to offer it himself. Needless to say, he got his money back.

This second sequel has a much better plot, as the characters actually seem to have direction, whereas in the second film they simply went through the motions. One point of interest: in the original Omen the holy knives are supposed to be employed in a cross pattern in the torso of Damien, whereas at the conclusion of this one a single blade in the back kills the adult Damien. This would have acted well as a first sequel. Special Features are a Commentary by Graham Baker; The Omen Legacy Part 3 (which is more film clips than information);The Omen 2006 - Making a Scene.

Omen IV - The Awakening (1991). Directed by Jorge Montesi/Dominique Othenin-Girard.
Karen and Gene York adopt a baby from a convent, but after a series of incidents Karen realises there's something not quite right about their daughter Delia. Using a private investigator, Karen attempts to trace the girl's real parents, but when she falls pregnant, against the odds, her moment of bliss turns to terror.

Oh dear, now we're getting silly. The only genuine, fleshed-out character in this third sequel is the private detective, and even he gets wrecked (watch the sequence) as if the concept of his premature death is inevitable. The reasoning behind Karen's suspicions is pretty tenuous, so here's The Omen IV's guide to recognising the antichrist in your child:

1. The baby screams at its Christening.
2. The child gets in trouble at school.
3. Somebody at a Psychic Circus says the child has a negative aura.
4. Some people the child has met later have heart attacks.

See what I mean? After reading this guide half the parents in Britain will be quaking in their boots and attempting to stab their children with holy knives! One continuity question: Why does Karen only notice the 666 on her baby's hand at the end?

As has become common, if not standard, in horror films the ending leaves the way open for another sequel (God forbid!). Instead, we get a remake...

The Omen (2006).Directed by John Moore. See The Omen above for synopsis:
This remake has its faults (see my more detailed separate review of this film), but it's not as bad as it might have been, considering it follows the 1976 classic which still looks good today. Once you get over the obvious question of "Why?", you'll enjoy a moderately good film that copies the original format for the most part. There are a few exceptions when John Moore attempts to stamp his own authority on the new version and bring it up to date with recent events, but these efforts are going to be pretty much overlooked by modern audiences. If you're new to The Omen franchise you'll enjoy this, because all performances are strong, but watching the original film in this set you'll almost certainly revert back to the question "Why?"

The answer becomes obvious when you consider that the four older films in this Pentology (that's not a word, is it? Pentagram Box Set would have been my title) have been remastered to be appreciated anew, and that there are more extras than you can shake a holy knife at - particularly on the original disc.

Special features on this one include a commentary by John Moore, Glen Williamson and Dan Zimmerman; Omenisms - The Making of 666; Abbey Road (music) featurette; Revelations 666 featurette (exploring the legend of the Beast); Extended Scenes and Alternate Ending, as well as Trailers.

This is the ideal outlet for these films which, after all do deserve to be packaged and appreciated together. At the time of writing I can't comment on the packaging itself because I haven't seen it, having only received Check discs (boo!), but as for the films.. Aside from The Omen (1976), these are not great films. You might not go out of your way to pick up one of the sequels; however, having them all together and remastered might just make you sit down and give them a try, and they do deserve that much. Alternatively, as each of these films are also available separately, opt for The Omen (1976) 30th Anniversary Special Edition.

Ty Power

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