Category Archives: 1976 Movie reviews

The Omen-1976

The Omen-1976

Director-Richard Donner

Starring-Gregory Peck, Lee Remick

Top 100 Films-#67     Top 20 Horror Films-#18

60002150

Reviewed February 24, 2017

Grade: A

On the heels of similarly themed supernatural horror films, and all three classics in my view, The Omen follows suit with the religious minded terrifying piece that resembles both The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. In fact, all three films are cherished gems and favorite horror films of mine. Clearly, The Omen (last to be released) is quite possibly the weaker entry having taken much from the other two films, and at the forefront is a child encompassed by devilish forces. But to say “weaker” implies it is not good, which is not the case- The Omen is a masterpiece.

Set mostly in London, the film actually begins in Rome. Gregory Peck plays a powerful diplomat, Robert Thorn. Robert’s wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), has just given birth to a baby, who dies. Unbeknownst to her, Robert and a priest have taken a newborn whose mother has just died, thereby fooling Katherine into thinking she has delivered a healthy baby boy. They name their child Damien. Soon, Robert is named U.S. Ambassador of the United Kingdom- an astounding honor, but his and Katherine’s lives spin out of control when strange events begin to occur surrounding Damien, and they realize the child is not “right”.

I adore the many aspects of The Omen. The locale of sophisticated and royal London is perfect. The Thorn’s live in a grand, palatial estate just oozing with possible horror elements. During a vast party for little Damien’s fifth birthday, the attendees are gathered on the perfectly manicured grounds of the Thorn home. It is a bright and cheery afternoon. Suddenly, from the top floor bedroom window, Damien’s fresh faced nanny publicly hangs herself from the window proudly shouting, “This is all for you Damien”! This scene is one of the most horrific and surprising scenes in the film. When Damien’s new nanny shows up, she is off-putting and sinister. The inclusion of a pack of black dogs hovering around the estate is fiendish, and an innocent trip to the zoo results in the scared animals fleeing from Damien as if he is the anti-christ, which of course, he is revealed to be.

Fantastic is the religious element of The Omen, a sure measure to frighten and freak out audiences brave enough to watch this film. Who will not be on edge as a sweet looking little kid is assumed to be the devil?  Religious elements in horror have been prevalent through the ages, and hardly work better than they do in The Omen. Perhaps it is the Italian and British accents and settings that add layers of fear to the film?

What I love most about the film is its cynicism. The Omen is not a happy film by any means, nor does it result in a happy ending- Satan wins in the end. Two memorable scenes are the pole through the heart of the priest scene and the gruesome decapitation of a photographer by a sheet of glass. In both scenes Satan causes the deaths.

The finale of the film is incredibly compelling and downright shocking- the face off of Robert and Damien in a church and the prevailing conclusion sets the stage for a sequel, which of course there was more than one. The sinister smile at the end of the film is immeasurable in its evil nature. The Omen is a film that I love to watch and revel in fright when the chills start to creep up my back. What a fantastic film.

Carrie-1976

Carrie-1976

Director-Brian De Palma

Starring-Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie

Top 100 Films-#37     Top 20 Horror Films-#12

352989

Reviewed September 25, 2016

Grade: A

Carrie is a horror film from 1976 that is adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name. Many King adaptations have been fails, but Carrie (along with The Shining) is among the best. Going beyond the scope of horror and receiving more than one major Oscar nomination (largely unheard of in horror), Carrie influenced films and filmmakers for decades beyond release. This is largely due to the dream-like and breathtaking direction of mood master Brian De Palma.

By this time (2016), the film and the character of Carrie White are legendary. Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is a lonely suburban teenager, ostracized by her classmates for being “weird”. Her mother (Piper Laurie) is a devout Christian who spreads the word of god amongst the neighbors. Carrie has a special ability to move things, usually during anger- this is called telekinesis. After a humiliating incident in the girls locker room when Carrie begins menstruating, one of the nicer girls in the class, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) feels sorry for Carrie and convinces her boyfriend, Tommy Ross, to take Carrie to the prom. When others in the class take revenge upon Carrie with a sick joke, things take a horrific turn.

Betty Buckley as the empathetic gym teacher, Miss Collins, and John Travolta and Nancy Allen, as dastardly Billy and Chris, also star and are perfectly cast.

The direction in the film is second to none. De Palma adds interesting camera work throughout the film. During a tender, lovely prom dance between Carrie and Tommy, the camera circles the pair repeatedly, giving a spellbinding, but not dizzying quality. The use of slow motion in the important “pig blood” scene is immeasurably effective. The seemingly eternal time it takes for the blood spilling to occur, the camera (in slow motion) goes from Sue to Miss Collins to Chris to the bucket of blood is fantastic. The list of inspired and intense scenes go on and on- from the climactic scene between Carrie and Mrs. White to the “jump out of your seat” final scene.

The acting is also worthy of high praise. Spacek and Laurie deservedly received Oscar nominations for their work. Spacek elicits so much rooting value into her role with a shred of psychosis bubbling just beneath the surface. Carrie wants to fit in and have a happy life so the audience is immersed in her corner and celebrates her short-lived happiness with Tommy at the prom. Spacek is just perfectly cast. Laurie on the other hand, exudes crazy in every sense, but we do feel pangs of sympathy for her. We largely believe she cares for her daughter and wants to protect her from the dangerous world.

Carrie is a masterpiece that continues to hold up well and influence generations who can relate to school bullying,  taunting, and the desire to see the nasty popular kids get their just desserts. More than a great horror film, it is a revered classic with a dreamy, moody vibe. One of my all-time favorites.

Family Plot-1976

Family Plot-1976

Director-Alfred Hitchcock

Starring-Bruce Dern, Karen Black

60020560

Reviewed July 18, 2013

Grade: B

Family Plot is sadly Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, made in 1976. It is certainly not one of his greats, but not bad either and a fitting way for a viewer to conclude watching his career conclude. The film is a jewel caper and a vastly different feel from many of his other, earlier films. It has a slick quality to it and reminiscent of a 1970’s television movie, which is not a knock. It simply felt more television-like than film, which likely could be because the film stars notable television stars William Devane and Katherine Helman. It also features some big film stars of the time- Karen Black, Bruce Dern, and Barbara Harris.

The film is also a departure from other Hitchcock films in that it is a macabre comedy. It is a tongue-in-cheek story of a fake psychic (Harris) and her boyfriend (Dern) who becomes involved in a search for a missing heir, jewel heist, and a murder.  All of the characters intersect as the film moves along and it contains some nice Hitchcock elements- the speeding car with no brakes down a hilly road is pure Hitchcock. The film, for me, has a slightly melancholy feel as sadly, it is the great Hitchcock’s final farewell.