Each genre has its own generic conventions. In which makes each genre unique and identifiable in its own way. This is the same with the horror genre. The Omen is a horror film and these are the reasons why. The common theme of a horror movie is usually good vs. evil. It is quite black and white and there are no room for doubts as who is the villain in a movie. According to , horror films are have the most morals out of all the films out there, because it is the genre where you can have clear lines between good and evil, black and white, without the gray.
In The Omen, it is obvious that the ‘villain’ on the movie is Damien Thorn, who is believed to be the Antichrist. In Christianity, the Antichrist is believed to be the son of the devil, as opposed to Jesus Christ, who is the son of God. You obviously can’t be more evil than that. At this revelation, audience would root for the obvious good, even though evil came in a form of a young boy. The Omen is also heavy on religious themes, as it concerns the birth of the Antichrist that will start the Apocalypse. Father Brennan would recite passages from the bible, even urging for Robert Thorn to take communion.
In American horror film, even if the film is horror, it does not have to have religious themes. However, for the Malaysian film industry, it seems fundamental to have religious themes in horror films. In fact, religion iconography would end up saving the day or offer protection from evil supernatural forces. In the end of the movie, it shows that the pope died while Damien did not. It symbolizes that evil had triumphed over good. The plot of the film is a simple one and it centres around the protagonist, Robert Thorn and the antagonist, Damien Thorn.
As the main plot tells the story of Damien and his slow rise of being the Antichrist, the subplots tells the lives of minor characters and their inevitable death. The inciting incident would be the adoption of Damien by the Thorns, as this seems to be the first step of his ‘rise to power’. The climax of this movie is when Robert Thorn is about to kill Damien but he decided not to. That seems to be the climax as that was the most important decision as it would stop the Apocalypse. The resolution would be the President of the United States taking in Damien and raising him.
The plot is clearly about good vs. evil, and evil had won and continue to live. Furthermore, there is the subplot, where Keith Jennings tries to prevent his own death. Keith Jennings knew that he was going to die because he saw a shadow in the photograph of his reflection. Also, most horror films, especially supernatural horror, have linear narrative. This is because the common use of flashbacks is to reveal answers to the audience. However, in horror films, it is important to keep the audience asking and guessing, as the unknown is part of the attraction in the film.
If the audience would be more scared if they don’t know what will happen. The locations shot in the film has also contributed in showing that The Omen is a horror film. In horror films, the locations that the audience usually see are graveyards and hospitals. Both of these places symbolizes death and both are featured in The Omen, as in the scene where Robert Thorn and Keith Jennings went to find the Jackal’s and later revealed Robert’s real son’s remains. Other than that, a hospital is shown in the beginning of the movie where Katherine gave birth and the scene where Katherine died.
In supernatural horror films, churches would be one of the prominent locations, as it would symbolise religion. Religion iconography is closely related to supernatural horror films, because in a way in symbolises ‘good’ as opposed to the supernatural forces which usually is ‘evil’. Many churches are shown in the movie, in fact as the movie was largely set in Rome, which is closely related to Christianity. The hospital Katherine was giving birth in had large cross on the wall, giving the audience the sense of irony because the Antichrist himself was given birth there by the Jackal.
The sense of irony continues on until the end of the film where Robert was about to kill Damien in a church but he failed and died instead. This is ironic since it symbolizes evil won instead of good, even if good has the upper hand. The lighting in The Omen also plays a part in why it is a horror movie. Lighting in a movie allows the filmmaker to create the atmosphere. Usually horror movies would have low-key lighting. Even if it the scene were set in broad daylight, it would seem bleak and dark. This creates a sense of impending doom and darkness.
For example, on the day of Damien’s birthday, even though it was a sunny day, the low-key lighting made the scene more ominous. Also, the lights within the movie play a part as well. Flickering lights would build up suspense. Not only that, The Omen’s characters matches the characters in stereotypical horror movie that features the supernatural. There is a priest, as usual. In almost all supernatural-themed horror films, there would at least one person who is affiliated with religion. In The Omen, it would be Father Brennan.
There will also be a non-believer, a character that doesn’t believe in the supernatural, at least he or she doesn’t initially. For this film, it would be Robert Thorn. Father Brennan would try to persuade Robert Thorn into believing him about Damien is the Antichrist. Robert Thorn is the non-believer who in the end believes and even has to kill his own son. It is interesting to note that the antagonist is a six-year-old child. In horror movies, it is common for children to be ‘haunted’ and used as the instrument of ghosts and spirits, but they are rarely possessed. In this movie, the child itself is the reincarnation of evil.
There are also various mise en scene which is common in the horror genre. There is frequently an element of isolation, where the characters would have a hard time asking for help. For example, the Thorns’ mansion and Katherine Thorn’s hospital ward as she died. She was isolated and helpless against Mrs. Baylock. As for the costumes, most of it is black. Robert Thorn wears black most of the time, as well as Damien. The most prominent colour in the movie is black as it symbolizes death. The props are also worth noting, such as crucifix, the Daggers of Megiddo and the Bible.
Lastly, The Omen utilizes the sound effect and background music to create suspense and fear in the movie. It is an important element in a horror movie. Without this element, a horror movie might not be scary at all. According to Sorley (2013) In horror movies, the common sounds are creaky doors and loud footsteps, also a lullaby sung by a child or their giggles is really effective in keeping the audience in a state to suspense. The Omen has this in abundance, as there is suspenseful music throughout the film. It is also important to note when there is a lack of sound other than the dialogues.
This happens when the filmmaker wanted full attention of what is happening. With the full use of the sound effects, The Omen once again proved to belong in the horror genre. As I have argued why the film The Omen is horror, one would ask why is it not any other genre? Why is it not, for example, an action film? Although the film has violence in them, it cannot be categorized as action. This is mostly because the violence is one-sided. It is always Damien, knowingly or unknowingly, causing the deaths of his victims, directly or indirectly. The victims have no fighting chance.
Although in action movies the concept of good vs. evil is somewhat similar to horror movies, action movies always have both parties ‘fight’ and not ‘victimized’. To say that The Omen is ‘purely’ a horror film would be untrue, as it has its own sub-genre, one of which is thriller. As Janet Staiger once said, Hollywood films are never ‘pure’. However, I do say that The Omen’s main genre is horror. With the reasons I have stated above such as the theme, the plot, the narrative structure, location, characters and sound effects, the movie The Omen (2006) directed by John Moore is a horror film.
Joseph, C. (2011, October 29). Religion a common theme in horror films. (C. Goshay, Interviewer)
Sorley, C. (2013, August 21). Horror Genre Research. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from SlideShare: http://www.slideshare.net/csorley/horror-genre-research-25445668