All the Omens, nearly a half century of unholy horror

With The First Omen opening soon, we look back at all of the other Omen offerings

On the set of The Omen
On the set of The Omen / Sunset Boulevard/GettyImages

For many horror fans, there's no reason to mess with a classic. However, Hollywood tends to disagree as studios seek to make as much money as possible based on the titles many of us know and love. Of course, this is nothing new and actually goes back to the very origins of the medium (try searching for every Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde adaptation sometime). Anyway, with The First Omen set to debut on April 5, it seemed like the perfect time to look back at the original flick, its three sequels, the remake and the TV shows to see how they all stack up. **NOTE: There are spoilers contained in this article.

On the set of The Omen
On the set of The Omen / Sunset Boulevard/GettyImages

The 1976 Richard Donner film The Omen is considered by many to be an unassailable pillar of the genre right up there with other classics of the decade like The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby and Jaws. In it, Gregory Peck's Richard Thorn is told that this newborn son passed away, but that another child was born at the same time who can be swapped in to avoid devastating his wife Katherine (Lee Remick). Unfortunately, that kid turns out to be the antichrist.

Jumping ahead five years, young Damien (Harvey Stephens) is kind of a weird kid. But his life gets much crazier when his nanny takes a leap from the roof during his birthday party and a giant devil dog shows up. While Damien does not directly attack anyone, a Final Destination-style force seems to take out those who grow concerned about the boy's true nature. Even Katherine starts to suspect something might be up with her son, but she gets taken out of the game when Damien "accidentally" knocks her over a second story railing. From there Richard and a photographer named Jennings (David Warner) start uncovering Damien's true nature. But does Richard have what it takes to deal with a threat to humanity hidden in his preschooler?

Mileage will certainly vary for modern viewers of this movie, specifically where you come down on religious horror and killer kid movies. Another tricky part about the story, though, is the fact that the first half follows Katherine's journey as she slowly begins to worry that her son might be dangerous. But after her fall, the baton is unceremoniously passed to Robert. It feels a little off in the telling and also a bit suspect because Lee Remick certainly could have handled the investigation with Jennings and all the rest. But hey, maybe they change that in the remake...

But we're not quite there yet. First, the sequels, all of which have a different naming convention! Damien: Omen II came out in 1978 from director Don Taylor (Escape From The Planet Of The Apes) who replaced Mike Hodges (Flash Gordon). In this one, Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) is now living with his aunt (Lee Grant) and uncle (William Holden) who have sent him and their own son Mark (Lucas Donat) to a military school where one of their instructors is played by Lance Henriksen. Now aided by a raven instead of a rottweiler, more terrible things start happening to those who wonder about 12-year-old Damien's nature.

This first sequel is an interesting expansion of the world that continues to build the mythology of Damien, pop culture's most famous antichrist. It's also just kind of...flat. Once more, Damien is not really the threat except for once, though there are plenty of natural-seeming deaths. None of them come even close to the iconic "It's all for you, Damien" moment from the first one. Once more, a great deal of the weight rests on Damien's shoulders and whether you find hm spooky or not.

The third installment, originally titled The Final Conflict later added Omen III to the beginning. Helmed by Graham Baker (Alien Nation) and starring Sam Neill (Possession, Jurassic Park) Damien, the 1981 film picks the story up during his adulthood now that he's the CEO of a company. While he has embraced his own demonic potential, Damien finds himself dealing with the birth of Christ's second coming and a cadre of priests seeking to kill him with supernatural weapons that debuted back in the first flick.

While Final Conflict might not have the same "elevated horror" feel of the first one, it sure does have fun with the premise. Neill is a great lead who fully embraces the role and feels dangerous as a powerful, rich man with ill intent for the world. There are also some pretty gonzo moments like the whole TV studio scene and the way Damien responds when nearly stabbed towards the end. The finale might give you whiplash, but I appreciate that these filmmakers really went for it.

With Omen IV: The Awakening, directors Jorge Montesi (Captain Power: The Beginning) and Dominique Othenin-Girard (Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers) went in a totally different direction by shining the spotlight on a new antichrist, this time a girl named Delia (Asia Vieira) who is related to Damien. Beyond that, this 1991 TV movie does follow the formula of the original for the most part, right down to the church aversion and the fact that she never physically causes the carnage around her.

While the broad strokes look familiar, The Awakening does not feel like an exact duplicate of The Omen. There's a whole New Age aspect that plays with the existing structure nicely, plus you get to see character actor extraordinaire Michael Lerner as a private investigator who investigates Delia's biological parents and the connection back to Damien. Along the way, her mother Karen (Faye Grant) grows more and more concerned and does get to have more agency as the film progressed which was a nice change, but the film as a whole feels like what it is, an early 90s TV movie, which might not work for some viewers.

Four years later, there was an attempt to bring The Omen back as a television series. The pilot was brought together by A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Back director Jack Sholder, but was not picked up for series. It did star some interesting genre actors like Brett Cullen (Lost, Under The Dome), William Sadler (Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey, Die Hard 2), Chelsea Field (Masters Of The Universe, The Dark Half) and Steven Williams (Jason Goes To Hell, It).

The franchise laid dormant for about a decade until the studio decided to bring The Omen back as a remake. The 2006 film directed by John Moore (A Good Day To Die Hard) was not well-received as many considered a retelling of the same story unnecessary. That's certainly a valid opinion, especially if you adore the original. However, if it did not quite hit with you, the remake might work a little better, though it still sidelines Katherine (Julia Styles) in favor of Richard (Liev Shreiber) about halfway through.

This version has a more contemporary feel and look without feeling too of-the-mid-2000s and does sneak a few more jump scares into the mix while also upping the ante with the even more Final Destination-y kills. Appearances by Mia Farrow (Rosemary's Baby), David Thewlis (The Sandman), Pete Postlethwaite (Alien 3, Dragonheart) and Michael Gambon (The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, Toys) certainly don't hurt either.

Damien returned in an A&E series named for him that ran for one season in 2016. Starring Bradley James (Underworld: Blood Wars), Megalyn Echikunwoke (Emily The Criminal) and Barbara Hershey (Black Swan, Insidious), the show ignored the sequels, used the original film as a base and built a new world around the adult antichrist. Overseen by The Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara, Damien focused on the lead character's struggle with the growing realization at his lineage. However, after the first 10 episode season, the show was canceled.

As of now, all of the Omen films are available on Hulu and can be rented elsewhere. Damien is available for purchase and rental as well.

Next. The First Omen: an unexpected prequel. The First Omen: an unexpected prequel. dark