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July 29, 2012

The Mike's Top 50 Horror Movies Countdown: #21 - The Omen

Previously on the Countdown: Number 50 - Happy Birthday to Me  Number 49 - Prince of Darkness  Number 48 - House on Haunted Hill  Number 47 - The Monster Squad  Number 46 - Hellraiser  Number 45 - The Fog  Number 44 - Creature From the Black Lagoon  Number 43 - Zombie  Number 42 - Tales from the Crypt  Number 41 - Bubba Ho-Tep  Number 40 - Phantom of the Paradise  Number 39 - Dog Soldiers Number 38 - Pontypool  Number 37 - Dark Water  Number 36 - Army of Darkness Number 35 - The Legend of Hell House  Number 34 - Poltergeist  Number 33 - The Abominable Dr. Phibes  Number 32 - The Phantom of the Opera  Number 31 - The House of the Devil   Number 30 - Evil Dead II  Number 29 - Dead of Night  Number 28 - Carnival of Souls  Number 27 - Nosferatu  Number 26 - Candyman  Number 25 - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre  Number 24 - Horror of Dracula  Number 23 - The Wicker Man  Number 22 - Suspiria
The Omen
(1976, Dir. by Richard Donner.)
Why It's Here:
It's the silly to conclusion to what many call "The Unholy Trilogy" of horror films that crashed the Oscars in the late '60s and early '70s - along with the more successful Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist - but The Omen still packs a rare punch to the gut despite its flaws.  The Omen takes an inventive stance on doomsday prophecies, while providing some of the most memorable on-screen deaths ever and the most ominous pieces of music in horror history.  The whole thing would be funny if it weren't so darn serious about its religious game of terror, as the film's dark tone manages to overcome the more ridiculous details of the plot.

The Moment That Changes Everything:
The "It's all for you Damien" moment is probably the film's most iconic scene, but I've got another scene that sums up The Omen to me.  It's the plight of Father Brennan, played with passion by Patrick Troughton, that has always been The Omen's biggest draw for me.  When the father tries to warn Gregory Peck's character of impending doom, that's when the film really starts to drip with tension.  And Father Brennan's final scene is the perfect representation of this over-dramatic horror tale.

It Makes a Great Double Feature With:
I've already mentioned the other two films that are most commonly referenced with The Omen, but the '70s were ripe with other horrors worth mentioning.  If you want to scare people out of ever having children, you could pair The Omen with Larry Cohen's It's Alive, a look at a much more physically monstrous child from the notoriously raw horror director.  The two movies back to back should provide nightmares for any expecting parent.

What It Means To Me:
I met The Omen relatively early in my exploration of horror cinema, so there are times when I feel like I might be giving it a free pass on some of its less desirable qualities - like its cast (Sorry, but Gregory Peck has never done it for me and Lee Remick is hammier than Christmas dinner) and its tendency to go all the way over the top at times.  But I'm still captivated every time I watch the movie, as those tonal issues just seem to add to the melodrama of the whole thing. The Omen is one of the loudest horror films out there - both literally and figuratively - but that has become its greatest asset to me.

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