31 October 2014

The Omen (1976)
Contributed by Joe Zaso

Joe Zaso is a New York-based film producer and actor who has appeared in such horror movies as 5 Dead on the Crimson Canvas (1996), Rage of the Werewolf (1999), Demonium (2001), Darkness Surrounds Roberta (2008) and Virus X (2010). In addition to films, television and print, Joe is also the host of a cooking web series/nostalgia show called Cafe Himbo, based on his reputation as a "Horror Himbo."

The very first time I became acquainted with The Omen was on a Sunday afternoon in June, 1976 when I going to see a showing of Mother, Juggs and Speed at the Glen Oaks Theater with my family. I saw the one-sheets all around the theater, and the trailer, which made me think it was a movie about an evil clown (!) who was at Damien's birthday party.

I never saw The Omen in the theater as I was still only five, but eventually I did.

I still vividly remember watching this movie on HBO on Saturday, October 1, 1977 at 11:00pm. I was warned NOT to see this by friends and family because it was "awfully spooky." As the ads said, "You have been warned."

Did I listen? Absolutely not and because of this irresponsible attitude, I got the greatest scare of my life. The mood, the music, the grim overall feel, the lack of humor (maybe not so much now because the loopholes are more visible than ever to my adult eyes), the spooky foreign locales, the creepy graveyard, the infamous decapitation, the eerie down ending...

And most importantly, that profoundly disturbing feeling I got when at 1:00am, it was time for bed, lights out and The Omen is still stuck in your head...haunting and tormenting away.

It's odd since there are so many better and scarier movies than this one, but this made such an impression on me, I can't deny its effectiveness. The Exorcist and Jaws had also been seen by me at that age, but those didn't shock me as intensely because I felt the "threat" of these movies was too contained. If you don't want the shark to eat you, don't go in the water. If you don't want the little girl to scare you, don't go into her bedroom.

But in The Omen, anything and everything could zap anywhere if you knew too much or simply "had to go."

The Omen has been always been a part of my life. Even the soundtrack albums have been with me since I was nine. (My folks actually hid the LPs from me for fear they would turn me into a Satanist. When I started to get taller, I happily found the records hidden on a shelf).

I still think Damien: Omen II is much more fun than the original (the soundtrack of that first sequel actually RELAXES me, go figure). And The Final Conflict is...OK. I was excited to see it at the cinema for its opening weekend - it's lost its thrill-factor since.

And let's not even talk about Omen IV: The Awakening (!!) which can only be enjoyed as a spoof.

Last year, I had the highly enjoyable experience of meeting Harvey Stephens (little Damien himself) at a horror convention. We both turned forty the same week and we enjoyed a beer together (how cool and how geeky!). That said, it's safe that The Omen will have a special place in my heart for all the sensations (negative and positive) it gave me over the years.

In any case, remember: if something scares you today, think about it. It may be The Omen.

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