Face-Off: The Exorcist vs. The Omen

In our previous Face-Off, we paid tribute to the great Gene Wilder in BLAZING SADDLES vs. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. I gave YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN the edge, and while some of you preferred BLAZING SADDLES, I think we all agreed neither of Mel Brooks' classic films would have been the same without our favorite dreamer of dreams.

This week, it wouldn't be October without a Halloween appropriate Face-Off, so I'm looking at two of my personal favorite horror films of all time. I fell in love with both THE EXORCIST and THE OMEN at a worryingly young age and have been a fan of both franchises since. Both have spawned several sequels, spoofs, and a 2016 television series, but which original film outspooks the other? Grab a crucifix and seven sacred daggers, and let's get wicked.
Linda Blair as Regan MacNeil
Mercedes McCambridge as the voice of Pazuzu

In one of the most stunning child performances ever put on camera, Blair steals our hearts as the lovable "regular" Regan and then steals our souls as she transforms to something truly terrifying, with the help of a brilliant make-up department and a tremendous voice actress, of course.
Harvey Stephens as Damien Thorn

Stephens has little to do as Damien, though for being five years old, he pulls off both the playful innocent and the menacing hellchild remarkably well. If nothing else, the presentation of Damien is a nod to movie magic, where you can have a kid do very little with a lot of crazy shit going on around him and think, "man, that kid's evil."
Ellen Burstyn as Chris MacNeil
Max von Sydow as Father Lankester Merrin
Lee J. Cobb as Lt. William Kinderman
Kitty Winn as Sharon
Jack MacGowran as Burke Dennings
Jason Miller as Father Damien Karras
William O'Malley as Father Dyer
Gregory Peck as Robert Thorn
Lee Remick as Katherine Thorn
David Warner as Jennings
Billie Whitelaw as Mrs. Baylock
Patrick Troughton as Father Brennan
Martin Benson as Father Spiletto
Leo McKern as Carl Bugenhagen

The cast members of THE EXORCIST are more often noted for their performances, but Peck and Remick bring a maturity and classic feel to THE OMEN, while the rest of the cast mostly adds to the creepiness factor.
When the daughter of a famous actress begins acting strangely, the mother is forced to consult with the Catholic Church about the possibility of an exorcism, a rite that has been all but discarded and forgotten.
After adopting a baby under mysterious circumstances, a series of deaths and under unusual occurrences the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain must accept the possibility that his son is the Antichrist... and must be destroyed.
"You're going to die up there."

"Why you do this to me, Dimmy?"

"Give us time... Let the girl die... I am no one... I am no one... Fear the priest... Fear the priest... Merrin... Merrin."

"Where is Regan?"
"In here. With us."

"Your mother's in here, Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I'll see that she gets it."

"Do you know what she did, your c*nting daughter?"

"Why her? Why this girl?"
"I think the point is to make us despair. To see ourselves as... animal and ugly. To make us reject the possibility that God could love us."

"Especially important is the warning to avoid conversations with the demon. We may ask what is relevant but anything beyond that is dangerous. He is a liar. The demon is a liar. He will lie to confuse us. But he will also mix lies with the truth to attack us. The attack is psychological, Damien, and powerful. So don't listen to him. Remember that - do not listen."

"What an excellent day for an exorcism."

"Your mother sucks c*cks in Hell, Karras, you faithless slime."

"Let Jesus f*ck you!"

"The Power of Christ compels you!"

"I cast you out!"

"Take me! Come into me! God damn you! Take me! Take me!"
"The child is dead. He breathed for a moment. Then he breathed no more. The child is dead. Dead. The child is dead."

"Look at me, Damien! It's all for you."

"He's killed once, he'll kill again. He'll kill until everything that's yours is his."

"His mother was a jackal!"

"Have no fear, little one... I am here to protect thee."

"When the Jews return to Zion
And a comet rips the sky
And the Holy Roman Empire rises,
Then you and I must die.
From the eternal sea he rises,
Creating armies on either shore,
Turning man against his brother
'Til man exists no more."

"Go to the city of Megiddo... in the old city of Jezreel. There see the old man Bugenhagen. He alone can describe how the child must die."
"He who will not be saved by the lamb will be torn by the beast!"

"He must DIE, Mr. Thorn!"

"You'll see me in Hell, Mr. Thorn. There, we will share out our sentence."

"Look, I'm not just some bystander. I was the one that found him."
"And I'm the one that's supposed to kill him."

"Please, Daddy! No, Daddy, no!"

"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666." Book of Revelation Chapter 13 Verse 18
William Friedkin gives THE EXORCIST a sense of authenticity by directing it more like a drama and a thriller than a traditional horror film. The result is a more compelling story which also becomes that much more unsettling as it progresses.
Similar to (and likely inspired by) Friedkin, Richard Donner delivers what feels more like an organic mystery than anything else. It takes a very steady hand to believably pull off Thorn reaching the decision he has to make by the film's climax.
While Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" is famously regarded as the theme to THE EXORCIST, Friedkin had trouble finding a score which worked for him and ended up with a final product which relies more on sound design to set the tone than music.
Jerry Goldsmith's score for THE OMEN is dramatic and terrifying, with everything from a booming, ominous choir to strange, synthesized cacophonies. In another composer's hands, such a score might be overbearing, but Goldsmith hits the balance nicely.
IMDB: 8.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 87% (Audience Score: 87%)
Domestic Total Gross: $193,000,000

Academy Awards: 2 wins, 8 nominations
Golden Globes: 4 wins, 3 nominations
BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination
IMDB: 7.6
Rotten Tomatoes: 86% (Audience Score: 80%)
Domestic Total Gross: $60,922,980

Academy Awards: 1 win, 1 nomination
Golden Globes: 1 nomination
BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination
The Exorcist (2016 TV Series)
THE OMEN (2006)
Damien (2016 TV Series)
What makes both of these films so fantastic is that they mostly play like straight dramas which just happen to have supernatural and demonic goings on at their core. This, along with predecessors like ROSEMARY'S BABY and the works of Alfred Hitchcock, helped legitimize the horror genre and reduce the B-movie stigma. While THE OMEN is strong and presents a nicely complicated scenario, THE EXORCIST went above and beyond the call of duty and still stands out as one of the most influential, disturbing, and memorable horror films of all time. I won't fault you for disagreeing, though; choosing between these two is a real Sophie's choice- if Sophie had the two most f*cked up kids ever, that is.

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at [email protected].



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