To celebrate our Creepy Kids Week, RICHARD PHILLIPS-JONES counts down some of Damien’s greatest hits from the Omen films.
If you mention the subject of creepy kids in horror movies, chances are that most people will quickly think of Damien Thorn, the nasty little tyke who audiences followed through the three films in the Omen series, released between 1976 and 1981.
The Omen Trilogy is famed for its set pieces, and I’ve assembled here this top ten of the trio’s most memorable kills. It’s interesting to note that Damien is never seen to commit any killings in a physical sense, but all (except one in this list) are carried out on his behalf. Sometimes by human or animal acolytes, other times by bewitched machinery, but always in a grand guignol manner.
If you’ve never seen The Omen Trilogy… well, firstly, why on earth not? Secondly, by it’s nature this list is chock full of spoilers, so if you don’t want to lose the element of surprise I’d advise you to go out and rent or buy a copy before proceeding.
Note also that this list does not cover the 2006 remake-by-numbers, nor the belated (and frankly unnecessary) TV follow-up Omen IV: The Awakening (1991).
Right, sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. In order of appearance…
1. The Hanging (The Omen)
Reliable nannies are so hard to find, and then they go and make an exhibition of themselves at a kiddies birthday party. Shameful. Best call the agency for a replacement… Incidentally, this hapless lady is Holly Palance, daughter of Jack.
2. The Lightning Rod (The Omen)
Patrick Troughton gets the point (sorry), thanks to a clever prop device. It was made from rolled paper and plastic tubing, guided by a wire to Troughton’s shoulder, where it set off a second spring-loaded section which shot into the ground. The end result still looks impressive, and ranks among the most iconic horror moments of the 1970s, as indeed does…
3. The Plate Glass (The Omen)
Another classic moment of horror cinema, this was actually thought up on the hoof, when the original idea (a sheet of glass falling from a top storey window) failed to work successfully in execution. When asked if he knew what had happened to the prop head used, David Warner wryly replied, “I lost it in the divorce”.
4. The Ambulance (The Omen)
A recovering Lee Remick takes an assisted dive from a hospital window, and crashes through the roof of an ambulance. I think that’s what’s known as irony.
5. The Kitchen Utensils (The Omen)
Just to prove it’s not always the good guys who cop it in a glorious manner, Gregory Peck does Billie Whitelaw in with a couple of handy items from the kitchen drawer. Note how this direct act of violence contrasts with the “accidents” conjured up on Damien’s behalf.
6. The Raven (Damien: Omen II)
A double whammy, this one. No sooner has the bird pecked Elizabeth Shepherd in the eyes, than she stumbles into the path of a truck. Talk about adding insult to injury. This scene was staged with the assistance of Ray Berwick, the animal trainer who also worked on Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963).
7. The Frozen Lake (Damien: Omen II)
Lew Ayres falls through a crack in a frozen lake, it looks like certain death, then it looks like he might crawl out of another hole… Will he? Won’t he? Damn, he’s gone again… Ayres, despite being 69 years old at the time, insisted on doing as much of the stunt himself as possible.
8. The Elevator Cable (Damien: Omen II)
Possibly the Omen II moment that comes closest to matching the grand set pieces of part one. A doctor discovers Damien has the blood of the jackal, and literally gets cut off before he can reveal the secret, thanks to dark forces tampering with an elevator (as our American cousins call them – we prefer lift).
9. The Assisted Suicide (The Final Conflict)
The adult Damien has eyes on the position of US Ambassador to the UK, but he has to use some mind tricks to get the present incumbent to vacate first. It’s amazing what you can do with a typewriter ribbon and a shotgun…
10. The Flaming Man (The Final Conflict)
Finally, Damien’s appearance on a current affairs TV show is interrupted by a monk’s attempts to stab him with a sacred dagger. The unfortunate feller falls from a lighting gantry, swings across set, catches fire and gets covered in polythene, which melts all over him. It was hard to get a decent freeze frame of this one, as the guy wouldn’t keep still. Trust me, though, it’s impressive.
Have I missed out one of your own favourites? Let us know in the comments section.