Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wee Willie Wicked takes a look at The Omen

Directed by Richard Donner, from the beginning frames of The Omen, it is clear that this film is diabolically demonic with a clearly biblical singing choir based soundtrack capable of creating chills. As if that wasn't enough to imply the film’s tone, during the opening credits, a standing male toddler surrounded by a dark evil red background, is casting a shadow in the shape of a cross. Holy and horror has just intermingled.

The film begins in Rome on June 6th, at 6 AM, with Robert Thorne, an American ambassador (Gregory Peck) hurriedly driving to and entering a hospital while a voiceover proclaims, The child is dead. He breathed for a moment. Then he breathed no more. The child is dead. Dead. The child is dead.

Thorne, looking through a pediatric window, views a nun holding up a male infant child. A child whose mother died giving birth to him. A child who Thorne has been convinced to accept since his child also tragically died while being born. However, the mother, Thorne's wife Katherine (Lee Remick), is unaware of this substitution.

Through joyful family photos, we are fast-forwarded to Damien’s (Harvey Stephens) fifth birthday party, where the tale officially begins. As children joyously run about, Damien’s nanny notices a large dog, a Rottweiler, watching from a distance. Her voice is suddenly heard; watch me Damien, I'm doing this for you. Everyone looks up to see her standing on the large home’s upper window ledge, a noose around her neck. She leaps, horrifyingly hanging herself in front of everyone.

Soon after, unbeknown to the parents, a new nanny, Mrs. Baylock (Billy Whitelaw) comes to call, and it is clear from the get go that there is something odd about her, for she is there solely for Damien’s protection.

Over the course of time, strange events occur. The Rottweiler has now been welcomed into the home by the nanny, much to Thorne’s dismay; Thorne is approached by Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) compelling him to accept Christ, telling him that his son isn’t his son at all and that he is actually the antichrist, which Thorne isn’t inclined to believe; During a visit to a zoo, the animals are clearly fearful of the child; Jennings (David Warner) a freelance photographer begins noticing strange and menacing shadows in the photographs he develops of those aware of Damien’s true identity, and are freakishly killed exactly as the shadow foretold.

Yet still, Thorne doesn’t quite believe.

However, when Katherine is in a tragic mishap little Damien is solely responsible for and winds up in the hospital; she implores Thorne to not let Damien kill her. Finding the request odd and after considering all the events leading up to it, he is starting to finally believe. But, he doesn’t save her as the nanny visits and pushes her out of the hospital’s sixth floor window to her death. Thorne, overwhelmed with grief, comes full circle to belief and he and Jennings begin an exploration taking them to various locations as they put all the pieces together.

One of the places, the hospital of Damien’s birth, Thorne seeks birth records. There are none since they were destroyed in a fire five years ago. However, Thorne recalls a priest, Father Spiletto (Martin Benson) that was there on the day of Damien’s birth and is informed that the priest had given into temptation, fallen from grace, and is being kept in a monastery. (This is the one proclaiming the child is dead at the beginning of the film). The priest, unable to speak, under the penance of one eye peering front and one eye peering back for his turn of faith, scribbles a single word on a parchment. That word is the name of a cemetery where Thorne will find the graves of Damien’s mother, as well as the body of his actual son, who Damien has taken the place of.

The two go to the cemetery, a gothic and eerie place guarded by an iron fence. They search and find the two crypts and slid the tops open to discover that one holds an animal, a jackal, Damien’s real mother, and the other holds an infant skeleton with a large hole in its skull. Thorn now knows his real son was murdered soon after birth. Immediately they are surrounded by vicious Rottweiler’s and must fight to get away, which they do.

The quest takes them to the one person who is knowledgeable in all this, an archeologist that has discovered the birthplace of Christianity. The man will only speak to Thorne alone and sends the photographer away. Thorne is given seven daggers, to be used to kill the child, with explicit instructions that it must occur on hallowed ground, such as a church.

After the meeting, Jennings pry’s as to what the man disclosed and Thorne conveys, but is perplexed, not wanting to kill a child. He decides against it and tosses the daggers. Jennings retrieves them intending to do the deed himself and is decapitated when a runaway truck tosses a sheet of glass. Bearing witness, Thorne realizes the truth and gathers up the daggers with intent.

Quietly he enters the home’s front door. Damien’s guardian, the Rottweiler, is aware and rises to prowl and seek Thorne. Thorne tricks the dog, locking him away and keeping him from aiding.

In Damien’s bedroom, Mrs. Baylock surprises and attacks Thorne, but he is able to fend off the attack, eventually stabbing and killing her with a pair of scissors.

He escapes the house with Damien in tow and is chased by the police for speeding as he races to the church. Holding Damien down before the church alter, Thorne, dagger raised, is shot to death by a policeman before he is able to inflict a fatal blow.

The final scene shows Damien, at Thorne’s funeral, standing between and holding the hands of a couple who will now care for him. It is Thorne’s brother and his wife, The President of the United States. Damien turns and looks at the camera, a smirk on his face.

The Omen is a film that makes a serious attempt at ranking equally alongside other demonic films such as The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby, but falls a bit short in comparison. However, in premise and flow, The Omen may have a slightly more frightening effect due to the immense biblical overtones guiding this film directly into the fear that many people harbor, and the gothic atmospheric architecture employed throughout. This is one of those films that some fearfully will not consider watching. For much like both The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, it is a believable film utilizing actual biblical points and there is always something terrifying about that.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The House That Dripped Blood, a review by Wee Willie Wicked

Paul Henderson (Jon Pertwee) is a film star who disappears after renting an eerie old house. Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) is in charge of the mystery and inquiries at the town's police station where, the local police sergeant (John Malcolm) begins to explain the house’s horrible history, and so begins the film’s four interwoven tales.

Tale one, Method by Murder, tells of Charles (Denholm Elliott), a writer of the macabre who creates a character named Dominick (Tom Adams), a horrific maniacal killer. While writing late at night, he sees Dominick behind him in the mirror's reflection. He turns around quickly only to find that Dominick is no longer there. After fetching a drink, he heads back to the study to find the top desk drawer open and the pencil sketch of his character missing. The following morning, the sketch is back. Charles is beginning to become perplexed. He crumples the sketch and tosses the wad into the nearby pond. As he glances across the pond, he spies Dominick on the other side smiling back at him as he retrieves the floating ball of paper.

That evening, while writing, Charles sees Dominick sitting in a corner chair. He calls for his wife Alice (Joanna Dunham), who doesn't see anything and pleads with him to see a psychiatrist (Robert Lang), which Charles does.

The following night, as a horrendous storm approaches, Charles sees Dominick strangling his wife and goes to her aid. She tells him that it was he who was strangling her and not his Dominick character. Now Charles is fully confused and frightened. Charles visits the shrink again and is told that sometimes a writer’s subconscious takes on the role of the character they’ve created. While Charles is lying on the couch, Dominick creeps up beyond the doctor and strangles him. Charles turns and sees this occur.

Dominick is now creeping through the house toward Alice. She turns, sees him and smiles, waiting for him to remove the mask before placing her arms around him. It has all been a ploy in an attempt to cause Charles to go insane, allowing Alice and her lover to be together. The telephone rings and Alice answers it. It is the police sergeant informing her that both the doctor and her husband have been found strangled to death. Alice’s lover mentions that he killed them both and she reacts with concern; "now they will be looking for a killer." She calls him by his name, Richard. He replies with “Richard…who’s Richard? I'm Dominick.” He smiles wickedly and grips her throat.

The scene goes back to the police station, where the Inspector learns that when Dominick was found hanging over the woman’s dead body…he was laughing wildly.

The second tale, Waxworks, tells the story of Philip Grayson (Peter Cushing) as a retired stockbroker renting the house and planning to finally be able to relax. While leafing through a box of mementos, he comes across a photograph of a beautiful compelling woman with piercing eyes, obviously an old flame.

Taking a stroll through town he notices "Jacqueline's Museum of horror," a wax museum filled with all sorts of macabre items, including a guillotine and many horrific figures such as Jack the Ripper. He comes upon a curtain and pulls the cord. The curtain opens exposing a wax figure with an uncanny resemblance to the woman in the photograph. She is holding a silver tray with a severed head on it. The proprietor (Wolfe Morris) appears and explains that it is his wife, who was guillotined for being an ax murderer.

That evening, Phillip tears the photograph in half. He falls asleep in a chair and has a dream that he is walking through the wax museum. When he pulls back the curtain the woman is no longer beautiful, but simply a skull. He is awakened by his friend Neville Rogers (Joss Ackland) knocking at the door. Neville sees the torn photo lying on the floor and picks it up. Through back and forth banter, it turns out that both men had a thing for the woman who unfortunately happens to now be deceased.

The two men go into town and Neville spots the museum. Philip doesn't want to go, but Neville pleads and Philip follows. Neville finds the curtain and opens it. The wax figure has the same effect on him as he did on Phillip. As Philip beckons to leave, the proprietor watches unseen from the shadows.

The next day Neville leaves and Philip finds himself back in town where he sees his friend's car parked in front of the museum. He enters the museum and sees Neville standing before the figure. But, before Phillip can speak with him, Neville hurriedly leaves. That evening, Phillip receives a phone call from Neville informing him that he couldn’t leave…that he must go back to the museum. Phillip begs him to wait for him, but Neville doesn't. Phillip knows where to find him.

At the museum he goes straight for the curtain and horrifyingly finds that it is now his friend’s head on the silver platter. The proprietor, coming out from the shadows, pulls an axe from a display and approaches Phillip, explaining that it wasn't his wife who was the murderer, that it was he. He chases Phillip around the museum, eventually catching him.

The next morning, an interested patron enters the museum, finds the curtain and opens it….Phillips head is now on the platter.


Back to the inspector and policeman’s conversation, with the policeman firmly placing blame on the house. The inspector is very skeptical and pays a visit to the Stoker (John Bryans) the realtor who rents the place. Stoker also believes that there is something odd with the house and has tried to discourage tenants from renting, to no avail.


The third tale, Sweets to the Sweet stars Christopher Lee as John Reed, a father who rules his adolescent daughter Jane (Chloe Franks) with an iron fist. Stoker is showing the home and lights the fireplace. Jane is terrified of the fire. Stoker inquires why and is told that the girl’s mother was killed in a fire.

John interviews a nanny (Nyree Dawn Porter) telling her that Jane is different. Over the next few days, Jane and the nanny chat, take walks, read Alice in Wonderland and grow close. The nanny requests taking Jane to a park in town. Reed adamantly forbids it and the nanny buys Jane some toys instead, one being a doll which Jane takes an extreme liking to. When Reed sees his daughter holding the doll, he yanks it from her hands and tosses it into the burning fireplace. Reed and the nanny have words and he explains that he only wants his daughter to have educational toys…because he knows what she is.

In the middle of the night, Jane sneaks downstairs into the library, climbs to the top shelf, retrieves a large book and begins reading it. The next day, the nanny and Jane are out for a walk and she quizzes Jane about plants and trees. Jane passes with flying colors, even explaining that the Ural tree was used for magic in olden times. The nanny is surprised to learn that Jane knows these things. That evening, while calling Jane for dinner, she finds the book Jane has been reading hidden under a chair pillow…it is a book on witchcraft. She confronts Reed, asking why he threw the doll in the fire. Suddenly, the electricity goes out and Reed goes to get candles. But, when he finds them, there are only four instead of five. He confronts his daughter, asking where the fifth candle is. Jane doesn’t answer and is slapped across the face.

The next day, with her father gone on business, Jane takes shaving clippings from her father’s razor. While at the office signing papers, John clutches at the pain in his arm, a product of Jane repeatedly sticking a needle into a wax figure in her bedroom. The nanny, unaware, calls for Jane and she hides the figure.

That night, Reed crying out with chest pains awakens the nanny. A doctor is summoned, but unable to find any ailments. The doctor leaves and Reed explains to the nanny that he is afraid of his daughter, just as he was with her mother and that the missing candle is now probably a wax doll and he asks the nanny to find it. The nanny goes to Jane’s room to begin a search and finds Jane holding the wax doll. She tries to take it from Jane, but is unable to. Jane tosses the doll into the roaring fireplace and a blood-curdling scream is heard from John’s room.


The investigation continues with Stoker explaining to the inspector that he firmly believes that the house is the source of the evil. Remaining extremely skeptical and not interested in superstition, only the facts, the inspector explains that he is there to investigate the film star’s death. Stoker recalls the day he met Paul Henderson. He sorely wanted the place and tale number four begins.


The Cloak begins with Stoker warning Paul about the house’s previous events. Paul likes the gothic concept, and since he is playing a vampire in his new film, feels it will add to the persona.

While on the film set, Paul shows his arrogance, not appreciating the costume department’s cloak and decides to seek out his own costume. In the dressing room he finds an oversized business card from a Theo Von Hartmann (Geoffrey Bayldon) a proprietor of theatrical costumes and wigs.

Paul visits the curio type shop and requests a cloak. The proprietor, an old gentleman with pointed eyebrows, is more than excited to part with a very nice red silk lined cape. Paul tries it on and immediately feels a chill flow through him. He pays for it and the proprietor says he only hopes that Paul can put it to good use. Paul leaves the establishment and the proprietor says to himself, now I can finally rest in peace.

That evening in the dressing room, Paul puts on the cloak and notices that he has no reflection in the mirror. On the set while filming a scene in which he is supposed to simulate biting his costar Carla (Ingrid Pitt), he dons the cape and actually bites her. She is aghast and slaps him across the face.

Paul researches various vampire books, unable to find answers. He puts on the cape as the clock strikes midnight. Suddenly, he has fangs and is capable of flying.

The following day on the film set he is glad to find that no scenes involve using the cape. He apologizes to Carla and she accepts his apology on one condition…that he takes her to dinner.

At the house after dinner, Paul reads in the local newspaper that the curio shop was destroyed by fire and that a coffin containing a well preserved elderly old man was found in the basement. Paul, having seen the capabilities of the cape, is fearful that it is authentic and was probably the proprietor’s, an actual vampire. He explains to Carla that the cape must automatically transfer the vampire’s spirit and bloodlust and that he intends to burn it. Carla, on the other hand, doesn't believe his theory and wants him to put it on to prove her point. He is hesitant as the clock is about to strike midnight. She calls him a coward and encourages him to put the garment on. He does, the clocks strikes and nothing happens. While taking the cloak off, he reads the inside tag…Property of Shepperton Studios and realizes that it isn’t the real cloak. Carla chuckles and wraps the real cloak around her. He pleads with her not to wear it…that she will turn into a vampire if she does. She replies through glistening fangs, we loved your vampire films so much that we wanted you to become one of us, and she attacks him.

Back in Stoker's office the inspector doesn't believe the tale and wants to see the house firsthand. He demands the keys and Stoker asks him to wait until morning for him to accompany him. The arrogant Inspector will not wait and goes to the house alone.

He unlocks the cast iron gate and it creaks open. As eerie sound effects carry the viewer through the following scenes, the inspector explores the dark house. He lights a candelabra and makes his way past the grandfather clock…it is 10 minutes until midnight. He enters another room and finds the basement stairwell. In the basement, he finds a locked door and breaks it open to find a coffin. The clock strikes midnight, the coffin opens, and up arises Paul in all his fanged glory. The inspector finds a large piece of wood lying on the floor and stakes Paul in the heart. Paul collapses and disappears leaving only the cloak. The inspector is relieved, but then another coffin opens. It is Carla, with glaring fangs. She turns into a bat and attacks him.


The next morning, the realtor is standing in front of the house. He turns and looks directly at the camera and asks the audience if they would like to rent it.

In the vein of Tales From the Crypt or the Vault of Horror, this film, written by Robert Bloch and directed by Peter Duffell, was produced by Shepperton Films and is now the property of Lion’s Gate Films. It is closely similar to the Hammer films of the same era, and features mainly English actors. While at times campy, with limited special effects and primarily concentrating on the actor’s abilities, this creepy, atmospheric and choreographed well film will satisfy any lover of horror anthologies.