Great Debate #7: The Omen is one of the worst of all-time
I just discovered this today, but movie critics Medved and Dreyfuss featured The Omen on their worst movies of all-time list, and I was surprised, realizing that some critics are about as stupid as Universal B-Movie monsters. Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss published their worst 50 movies of all-time book in 1978, listing such stinkers as Robot Monsters (1953), Godzilla vs Hedorah (1971), and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964). However, I’m not sure why this list gets the credit it does, as it lists contraversial ones too, such as The Ambushers (1968) starring Dean Martin. Dean Martin? Holy cow, I’ve never seen that movie, but it must really be bad for it to make the list. I still can’t understand how The Omen (1976) makes it though. Is The Omen that bad?
I would have to say The Omen is one of the most classic horror movies of the 70s, if not of all-time. It wasn’t remade because it was a piece of crap, I’ll tell you that much. The original Omen stars Gregory Peck, perhaps one of the most celebrated actors in all of film, and it was directed by Richard Donner, who every Superman fan on Earth knows. This is not a B-Movie, judging by the cast and the production. From their writing, I can only conclude that Medved and Dreyfuss did not like the story.
It is the story and the character personalities that Medved and Dreyfuss are really criticizing, but I still can’t see their point. They argue that the parents are too oblivious to Damien’s development and the strange events surrounding the devil-kid, as any real parent would notice the Devil’s son grow up into a jerk any day of the week. I’m not sure I understand this criticism, if it can really be called a criticism, because that was the last thing I was thinking about when I was watching this movie. I would criticize the wooden acting before I’d criticize the unrealistic parents, but maybe Medved and Dreyfuss don’t like Superman or something.
In comparison, many websites list The Omen as one of the scariest movies of all-time. Entertainment Weekly listed The Omen as the 18th most scary movie ever made, which I’m sure I’d agree with more if What Lies Beneath (2000) wasn’t at number 7.
Roger Ebert, who is a real critic, rated The Omen as ominous and threatening, but saw it as too far-fetched and serious in places. Ebert also criticizes the interpretations the movie makes about several apocalyptic Bible verses, for example. He says the horror-filled drama is way too serious in spots. I would add that the whole movie is serious. There’s not one joke or silly moment I can think of. Even the music rings with a dark tone. It may be really, really serious, but I still think it has a better tone than some of its genre pals.
I like the political overtones of this movie, despite that not really being an emphasis. Gregory Peck as Robert Thorn thinks it’s an emphasis too, when he gets clued in on the Devil’s plot sometime toward the end of the movie. Medved and Dreyfuss think he should have been clued in way before though, such as when the nanny hangs herself in Damien’s name. Damien also has this weird connection to the dog and doesn’t really act like any little kid I know, but maybe Thorn was too busy at work or something to notice those things.
Parents can overlook flaws in their children. I know that much because I have a lot of flaws and my parents are the most patient people ever, so looking at it that way, you might be able to give Thorn and his wife a free pass. Katherine is played by Lee Remmick and she has the same forgiving attitude as most parents. She’s not the strongest actress in the world, but she’s good enough for my taste. She disappears toward the end of the movie anyway, so her acting doesn’t really have to carry the movie or anything.
It is actually Father Brennan who helps Thorn begin an investigation of Damien. And when Brennan dies, Thorn and his photographer buddy Jennings continue to investigate, but they are deterred at every opportunity by Final Destination style interruptions, or The Devil himself, if you prefer. The death of Jennings is probably one of the best deaths in the movie, a decapitation by sliding glass.
I actually like the ending to The Omen. It matches the tone, which we already know is serious, serious, serious, and ominous. It fits. It is a downer ending. Despite that, this movie was one of the highest grossing movies of 1976, making millions in profits. It is a good movie. With this success, Richard Donner got the Superman job in 1978. Considering that, I am glad for the success of The Omen!