The Omen (1976)
This movie also holds a special nostalgic quality for me. It was the first “adult’ horror film I ever watched, at the tender age of twelve. (I was a late bloomer.) The movie seriously freaked me out at the time. Having had the idea of the apocalypse drilled into my head by my fire-and-brimstone Southern Baptist grandmother for most of my childhood, the premise of the movie felt frighteningly real. And, I think, that childhood mindset, were you only half-understand the true implications, is really the best way to view this one. The film creates a profound sense of dread, one that sent me spiraling into deep existential despair when I first saw it.
Watching it now as a mostly-agnostic adult, I interpreted the story in a totally different way. This is as much a movie about the fear of parenthood as it is one about the Antichrist. “Kids are the devil” is one of the, I suspect, unintentional messages of the film. And, while this is obviously a movie dealing in religious paranoia and Christian fear, there’s something oddly Atheistic about this one. Less in the literal sense of “God never existed in the first place,” but more in that late-seventies “God has abandoned us” mindset. Satan is presented throughout as the clear victor, as powerful as the Christian God but obviously more active in our world. This is really a relentlessly grim film. After all, the best possible outcome to the story involves a father murdering his adopted son. Antichrist or not, that’s a pretty terrifying concept.
On a technically level, it’s brilliantly crafted. Donner’s direction and the editing are pitch perfect and Goldsmith’s music is rightfully legendary, truly one of most ominous, disturbing film scores ever composed. You can also trace the modern day “Final Destination” films specifically, as well as a great deal of later supernatural slashers, directly back to this movie. (9/10)
The Night Strangler (1973)
Better then the first movie. Kolchak’s character and personal voice are more definitely established. His interaction with Vincenzo and the supporting cast is juicier. The mystery is more intriguing. The Seattle Underground provides an incredibly atmospheric setting. Carl spends more time investigating, reporting, and encountering the monster in an up-close-and-personal way. The supporting cast is great, featuring terrific turns from Wally Cox, Scott Brady as a fantastically confrontational police chief, and the gorgeous Nina Wayne.
The only way it pales in comparison with “The Night Stalker” is that it’s just not as scary. The restaurant sequence is the only real nail-biter. The script is also largely derivative of the first film, especially when the police shot harmlessly at the monster and how Kolchak ends up confronting the villain in his lair. (Granted, pretty much every story involving Kolchak follows almost that exact same formula.)The way the Alchemist info-dumps a load of exposition on us at the end is also pretty lazy. But as the car-ride final sequence shows, I found this one to be considerably more likable and relatable then the first film. (8/10)