Thursday, August 21, 2014

"The Omen" by Jerry Goldsmith

1976's "The Omen" holds up incredibly well in 2014, there's very few moments that look badly executed which can be quite rare with older movies in the horror genre, a fact that would not stop me and many millions of others from watching them anyway. 

The score by the late great Jerry Goldsmith suits the film perfectly. It was one of the biggest hits of the year, and the cinematic debut of Richard Donner who went on to direct many box office smashes including the first "Superman" and the Lethal Weapon franchise. We'll definitely get into more of Jerry's scores later, there are many to cover, most notably the original "Planet of the Apes". 

The score itself ranges from the almost saccharin orchestral music which occurs mostly at the beginning when director Richard Donner is establishing the doomed Thorn family as a normal happy family to the intense and gothic, sometimes atonal choral symphony of the latter part of the film. During the happy family scenes no irony here, no hints at trouble ahead; the whole of the orchestra cooperates with each other, there's no foreshadowing that son will soon be trying to kill both mother and father.

Choirs chant mostly monotonous latin often spiraling into dense cacophonies of noise (listen to "The Killer Storm" which is laid under the scene with the priest trying to escape an evil storm which eventually dislodges a church spire that falls from the roof and impales him on the ground (which he inexplicably makes no attempt to get away from despite the fact that he spends several seconds watching it coming toward him; maybe he's just accepted his fate.)

Standout moments (which can be heard on the soundtrack here) include the aforementioned "The Killer Storm", "Safari Park", which starts tranquil and descends into chaos by the end, and underscores what is definitely the most gripping and well shot scene in the movie, when little Damien and his mother are driving through a zoo and are attacked by a group of chimpanzees; "A Doctor, Please" which is a variation on a simple and eerie piano theme that occurs throughout the film, and "Ava Satani", which plays under the opening titles.

My favorite musical moment in the film, however, is not on the soundtrack and was most likely not composed by Goldsmith, but perhaps instead by the sound effects team (maybe someone out there can shed some light on this in the comment section). It occurs during the first appearance of the stray rottweiler that Damien and his future nanny Ms. Blaylock later take in, the dog seems to mentally manipulate Damien's current nanny into hanging herself. Much more in the vein of Wendy Carlos with an analog synth playing a plodding monotonous bass line, hear it here.