7. The Omen (1976)

First of all, let me say something about another film: The Exorcist. It’s not on this list, in case you were wondering, because after repeated viewings I still think it’s awful. The narrative is a shambles, the possession quickly becomes dull and I find Fr Damian’s macho struggle tedious in the extreme. The Omen, which is usually overlooked in The Exorcist’s favour, is a very different matter. The central premise is solid, the gradual development of the horror is handled with subtlety and pace, escalating through one set-piece to another, and the sense of evil destroying a family is very satisfying. The parents (Lee Remick and Gregory Peck) are superb, Patrick Troughton and Billie Whitelaw steal every scene they’re in, and the child himself is really scary. OMEN, THEI love the fact that some of it’s set in Guildford Cathedral, because I passed it every day on my way to school. I’m particularly fond of the children’s party scene, ruined when the nanny flings herself out of a window (‘It’s all for you, Damian!’). Heads roll, torsos are skewered, and Billie Whitelaw does a lot of biting. I find The Omen much more disturbing now that I’m a father; the climactic scene of Gregory Peck dragging his screaming son on to the altar is now one of the most horrific things I can imagine.

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