Directed by Richard Donner (16 Blocks (2006), Superman (1978)), known for inventing the modern superhero film and the buddy cop film franchise Lethal Weapon.
Written by David Seltzer (Dragonfly (2002), My Giant (1998)), interestingly, he also wrote the 2006 remake of The Omen.
Starring: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner, Harvey Stephens, Billie Whitelaw and others.
“Look at me Damien! It’s all for you.” says a nanny before hanging herself and smashing through a window. This and a few other scenes might just be some of the most memorable moments of horror cinema, which is why this movie is regarded as a classic. In this case it is totally deserved. I often use this particular quote randomly in everyday conversations, that must count for something.
Damien, the six-year-old antichrist played by Harvey Stephens isn’t all that active in the movie, except for a scene where he starts punching and scratching his mother for taking him to the church. This could be considered a reasonable reaction. What kid enjoys going to church? This movie must have reduced the number of newborn children being named Damien. For some reason it seems a very appropriate name.
Gregory Peck in this movie has decided that he won’t actually do emotions, unless the situation is very extreme. You’re wife falls from the second floor, breaks everything in her body and is put in the hospital. Peck just puts on a little frown as if to say “well, she isn’t dead, now is she?”. Peck’s hair seems to change its grayness in certain scenes, drawing my attention to the fact that nowadays the possibility of a 60-year-old man being the star of a horror movie is rather small.
When a priest turns to Peck’s character to say his child is evil, he is quite unbelieving and understandably so, since it’s hard to trust a priest when another one slipped you the devil six years ago.
Richard Donner seems very confident with directing, which is not surprising, considering the 15 years of doing various tv series before this movie.
The score is just brilliant, over the years there’s been countless imitations. The choral parts in latin and blasting orchestral score really got my heart pounding leading on the second best death of the film. But I must admit that at times the powerful score was a bit too much for me.
The undoubtedly best death is when a character loses his head in the most amazing slow motion decapitation scene I’ve ever seen, which is caused by an improbable and elaborate string of events. It might have inspired the whole Final Destination gimmick.
Besides just the shenanigans with the little rascal Damien at the Thorn house, what aids the movie greatly is the far more interesting subplot, where a photographer starts figuring out that something isn’t right.
I think this movies target audience is new parents (preferably adoptive), who might be terrified by the thought of their child turning out to be the antichrist himself.
There are many and beautiful locations, which seems odd for a movie with a budget this modest. Although they might have taken some shortcuts. For example when the characters are looking for a specific old church it turns out to be on the Old Church road. Suspiciously convenient, isn’t it?
The ending is nice, you might think it promises a sequel, but back then it wasn’t such a common practice. Of course that doesn’t mean there were no sequels.
Overall, a good, well-written, well-directed movie, really suspenseful and entertaining, takes itself seriously enough and I totally recommend it for everyone.