Starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, David Warner
Directed by Richard Donner
Rated R: Violence
The last time I put on a scary movie, it was “Poltergeist”, a film that had a plot motivated by the love for a child. Here we have a plot that is motivated by fear of a child. Ambassador Robert Thorne uncovers a conspiracy and the haunting realization that his son is the Antichrist.
It is a bit difficult to accept our leads at first for not recognizing the unsettling events around them. Though as a jaded viewer I am all too aware of the genre conventions to watch out for, so I may be biassed, because the opening scenes following the growing family, really do put you off your guard. After a series of grizzly deaths, Gregory Peck and Daivd Warner travel the world on a quest for the truth about the boy, Damien. This is quite easily the best part of the movie as the tension heightens with each discovery and the frights in this part are subtle and subconscious. The exhuming of the graveyard ruin caused me to squirm in my seat more than any of the film's many graphic decapitation scenes. This makes the urgent conclusion, seem a bit meek by comparison as it involves more traditional set ups of a stretch of silence before something jumps out of the dark corner. I suppose I should be grateful such an old trope was limited and saved for the end.
By this time Gregory Peck is a weathered veteran, and tackles this part like the pro that he is, encompassing an uncertain hero with ease even after years of playing square jawed moral compass types.
Director Richarad Donner sets the grim atmosphere perfectly, using a series of unique shots and camera angles to convey alienation and claustrophobia to staggering effect.
Jerry Goldsmith’s score is one that really puts him through his paces. The ominous Latin chanting probably being the most memorable, but can also bend emotions by starting off with a sentimental sound only slowly introduce untuned instruments to render the scene unsettling.
It that respect its a hard film to rate because it succeeds so well at being so displeasing and uncomfortable to the audience and I base my scores on the quality of the film, I also temper that with how much I enjoyed it as a whole.
4 out of 5. Chilling.