RICHARD DONNER’s classic son of Satan film THE OMEN overflows with scenes high in trauma content. Priest ka-bobs, shrieking psycho monkeys and slow-mo-spinning decapitated heads rule the day. Even attempting simple household chores like watering one’s plants sadly results in smashed fish bowels and a trip to the emergency room. But that’s how it should be; nowhere in the bible does it say that the spawn of Satan is going to be carting a wagon full of marshmallow unicorns behind him. Out of all the scenes in DONNER’s Whitman Sampler of end of days atrocities, the one that stands out as the most KINDER-traumatic takes place at little Damien’s outdoor birthday party; a celebration whose festive spirit is crushed under the devil’s hoof.
Let’s face it, some folks are really pulling for Damien’s (HARVEY STEPHEN) future reign to be a success. One of those people is not-so-super nanny Mrs. Baylock (BILLIE WHITELAW). The first order of business is to get rid of Damien’s present nanny (fruit of JACK PALANCE’s loin, and RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT co-hostess, HOLLY PALANCE), so that bad Mrs. B can take her place and have a hand in raising the child. Enter demonic doggy. Demonic doggy, a handsome Rottweiler with sparkling eyes, appears to have the ability to influence a person’s decision making skills ala the son of Sam’s canine pal, but without all the chin music.
For the most part, this outdoor shindig seems to be a smashing success thanks to the Thorns being rich as hell. There’s a merry-go-round and even some cool mini rollercoaster thing I never found under my Christmas tree. You really couldn’t ask for better weather either, so it’s kind of a shame about what happens next. (Actually as horrible as the following events are, you just know that none of the guests could wait to get home to call their friends and relatives to tell them about how F-d up the well-to-do Thorn’s party was. “They ran out of plastic forks and…”)
Our mousey nanny, with more than a little nudging from demonic doggie, decides a much more memorable gift than the store bought kind could be bestowed upon little Damien by hanging herself like a human piñata out of a three story window. With the words “Look at me Damien, It’s all for you,” she takes one step forward and walks out into Kindertrauma history. A hanging nanny should be horrific enough, but THE OMEN, which for the most part, is a relatively restrained affair (sans that decapitation) just can’t resist adding a few extra turns of the satanic screw. In this case it’s not enough for nanny to simply hang and choke, horrifying the on-looking partygoers, she also has to swing backwards, destroy a perfectly good window and startle an unsuspecting indoor maid, who by rights should have been able to go about her daily dusting chores without any knowledge of this, the gift you cannot return.
It’s not so much the violence of the scene that we find horrifying but the glee in which it is performed. With the batting of a doggy eyelash we watch the nanny transform from “one of us” to “one of them”, a shiny happy sleeper agent with a Moonie grin. Rather than quietly going to her room and overdosing on sleeping pills, which would open the same opportunity for Baylock, she picks a spot where she is sure to be seen by all. It’s an act of true terrorism on the part of the devil (and DONNER). A public announcement that the happy family photo montage scenes (like the one that preceded this one) are officially over.
The only thing that needs to be said about the emotional devastation that this display causes is that one of the children at the party is actually shown seeking comfort from a clown (!). Many of the other guests simply look on expressionless, probably trying to figure out how much money the Thorn’s paid the nanny to perform that trick and wondering if she is available for Bar Mitzvahs. LEE REMICK understandably takes this moment to shield her son from the unsightliness, while simultaneously posing for the film’s advertising art, with a pleading expression on her face usually reserved for stained glass saints and porn stars.
All of this trauma-drama is doused in JERRY GOLDSMITH’s life ruining musical score and some weird uncanny bizarre sound effect that sounds like a faucet leaking in an echoey flying saucer. The one person who is nonplussed by the day’s events is little Damian who, by scene’s end, is shown waving a thank you to the rotten Rottweiler for giving his boring (and obviously very impressionable) nanny the pink slip, and creating a crack just large enough for good old Mrs. Baylock to slip through….