Kerr's Corner

Kerr's Corner is a regular feature in East Antrim and Newtownabbey editions of The Wizard. David Kerr would like to hear your memories of life in your own area. Maybe you'll trigger some thoughts for a future column. kerrscorner@ulsteronline.org.uk

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

DVD Review - The Omen Pentology

Run Time: 530 minutesCertificate 18

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

A FANTASTIC treat for horror fans was released on 23 October 2006 - an ‘Omen Pentology’ set. Along with the remastered original movie it includes the entertaining first sequel Damien: Omen II (Damien as a troubled teenager); the not so hot The Final Conflict: Omen III (Damien enters the 'Eternal Sea' of politics); the boring made-for-TV Omen IV: The Awakening (the devil reborn as a girl) and the interesting recent remake of the original. It is also jam-packed with documentaries, commentaries and other features.

I started by re-watching the original 1976 film. It was surprising at the time that a mainstream studio put out this film. Not because it is particularly horrific or gory but because of the controversial religious nature of the central theme - the Anti-Christ walking the Earth and (at least in the beginning) triumphing over those who oppose him. The other surprise is the quality of acting and actors in the original, Gregory Peck as Robert Thorn (Damien's 'Father'), Lee Remick as Katherine Thorn (his mother) and Harvey Stevens (as Damien himself) are the central players but it really is an ensemble Billie Whitelaw’s measured, sinister portrayal of the as the boy’s nanny; David Warner as the photographer who sees omens of death in his pictures and the ill-fated priest played by Patrick Troughton.

At heart The Omen is psychological, revolving around the breakdown of the controlled, superficially perfect lives of the central couple, unable to cope with what is happening. This is a point made by the Editor Stuart Baird: "Instead of relying on gore and blood and flashy effects it was psychological". (The Omen Revealed). It's also interesting that the Robert Thorn has lied to his wife about the birth of "their" Son. This lie (which we, the audience, are aware of) has many repercussions. That's not to say that there isn't gore. There are set pieces that really stick in your mind: death by impaling, death by beheading, death by falling, death by hanging - plenty of death! Perhaps best of all the little smile from Damien at the funeral at the end - chilling!

I then moved on to the remake of the original to compare and contrast. It has had its detractors (particularly on the Internet). Viewed as a film in its own right it is well done. John Moore's remake stars Julia Stiles and Liev Schreiber as the couple with the problem child. It links recent political events (electoral corruption, unjust foreign military adventures, oil crises, and Middle Eastern terrorism) with the prophecies involved and a more modern setting (and fashions!) makes it easier to absorb. It stuck closely to the book, without being a straightforward copy of the original film.

By Omen II Damien is now a teenager living with his aunt and uncle (Lee Grant & William Holden) however there are too many sudden deaths around him (bit of a give-away!) and they begin to suspect. Not as effective or shocking as the original, but still pushes your buttons.
In Omen III: The Final Conflict even Sam Neill (who I admire) can't compensate for a poor script and a disappointing ending. By Omen IV: The Awakening the series is really limping in. At least the third film had Sam Neill and attempted to continue the story of Damien - this 1991 made for TV one simply repeats ideas from the original.

There are some great extras included with the Pentology (see list below). Richard Donner gives an informative commentary. Wes Craven gives his take on the movie which focuses on the role played by Gregory Peck. He (over)uses the words "serious" and "dignity": "part of the success of it is that they had this man of such immense dignity, he seems to be almost magisterial." You feel like saying - 'we know, it Gregory Peck!' but you get the point. He also makes interesting comparisons with The Exorcist. The Still Gallery has a picture of a cinema showing The Omen and you can see it running alongside Taxi Driver and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which really puts it into context.

I really enjoyed Jerry Goldsmith on the Omen Score. The music is integral to the original film. As Jerry explains an: "important function of the music is to help the pace." The feature takes scenes and looks at the music associated with them. Included are the Love theme, Damien's ride to church (apparently influenced by the music from Jaws!), and the haunting theme base on Gregorian Chants. After being nominated ten or eleven times for Academy Awards and losing out Jerry scored with The Omen.

The Curse or Coincidence feature raises intriguing questions. There are some freaky accidents (car crashes, plane crashes, planes struck by lightning and one man eaten by a Lion) which do seem a little unusual! It's quite freaky when the shows religious advisor stares into camera and tells you that this is because the Devil didn't want the film made.

If you enjoyed The Omen you can lock the doors and immerse yourself in set.

ASIN: B000HN31TWSpecial DVD Features
The Omen (1976) 30th Anniversary Special Edition

The Omen Legacy Part 1Wes Craven on The Omen2 audio commentaries form Director Richard Donner and Writer/Director Brian HelgelandDeleted ScenesThe Devil Made Me Do It: The impact Omen had on contemporary horror filmmakersScreenwriter David Seltzer on writing the Omen100 Still GalleryCurse or Coincidence featurette

The Omen 666 [2006]
Making Of FeaturetteCommentary By John Moore, Glen Williamson, and Dan ZimmermanTwo Extended ScenesAlternate EndingTrailersAbbey Road FeaturetteRevelations 666 Featurette

Damien: Omen II
The Omen Legacy Part 2Commentary by Producer Harvey BernhardThe Omen 2006 - Life AfterFilm School Featurette

Omen III: The Final Conflict
The Omen Legacy Part 3Commentary by Director Graham BarkerThe Omen 2006 - Making a Scene Featurette

Omen IV: The Awakening
The Omen Legacy Part 4The Omen 2006 - World Premiere FeaturetteThe Omen 2006 - Casting Session Featurette

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