Before watching this film again, which I had not seen since I was very young, I found myself thinking of several questions.
How does this film hold up now?
Is the film as scary as I remember?
Can they fit enough content into the just under 2 hour running time?
How much better is this than the re-make?
So, how does this film hold up?
Surprisingly well! There are two things that stood out to me that need to be mentioned. One is the editing, i'm a real stickler for good editing, and this film nails it - even by current standards. Of specific note, I really enjoyed how they show Damien aging at around the 10 minute mark through a series of pictures, it stands out in this film because it gives almost a false hope and doesn't really match what this story is about.
The second thing about this film that makes it a real standout is the score. There has been plenty written about what the score did to this film, so without repeating anyone who came before me, I mostly want to say that you simply don't have scores written like this anymore. When you find yourself questioning "Why can't they make them the way they used to?" This is one of the reasons.
Is this film as scary as I remember?
Scary? Not really. It is somewhat intense at times. A scene I was looking very forward to and surprisingly could remember very well, was this one.
Personally for me, when I think about churches - this is what I think about. I thought about it when I was young, and I think about it now. This is truly the mark of an effective film to have a long lasting effect like that. The other scenes that really lend to any scariness (at least by today's standards) are the scenes with the dog's. These dog's are damn menacing
Yes, that picture looks pretty fake - but in the scenes where they don't, they are used to great effect. I do believe that if you were the religious sort, and the particular type that believes in the Antichrist - this movie could give "scary" a whole new meaning. For me, it was a good bit of nostalgia.
How about the running time?
As I mentioned before about the editing - this film couldn't have been paced much better. Considering this is less than 2 hours, this film really gets to the point quick, and makes just about every scene count. At no point did I find myself with my mind wandering or looking at other things while taking notes on the movie. I would like to see some more story about the Antichrist as it is one of my favorite, but lesser used horror movie staples.
Better than the remake?
Pretty easy to say yes to that. As far as remakes go, I liked it quite a bit. There are so many things about this film though that you will never match, such as...
-The Poster: I think that is one of the best taglines I have seen on a poster. The way the wolf is jumping out of Damien, the way the 6's appear in the O. If only they could have posters like that these days
-The Score: Subtle when it needs to be, jarring at other times, it hits all the right notes and this film would be much lesser without it.
-The Acting: I'm sure there is a story behind it somewhere, but how they came to casting Gregory Peck (aside from who turned it down) is crazy, but an interesting choice. The Priest and the photographer characters were also well cast and do a lot to add to the movie. The remake wasn't really a slouch either, but Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles don't quite equal Gregory Peck, even in a slightly wooden performance.
-The Horror Stories/Myths: Planes getting struck by lightning, Decapitations, Plane Crashes... You can't buy (Nor do you probably want to) that kind of marketing, but it's the sort of thing that elevates this film to a higher level than it's peers.
Some final thoughts?
As we keep running through the Omen films here at the scroll, it's pretty easy to say that this film is the best of the bunch. It had a huge influence on the genre, and it's a real surprise that this premise hasn't been overused and copied. If we had as many of these as we do exorcist films, I could see this being a whole different conversation.
Look for reviews of films 2 and 4 to follow as well as the books when we start some book reviews. If you haven't done so in a while - make a point of re-visiting this film, you'll be glad you did!
5 Rottweilers out of 5