Thursday, October 11, 2012

Horror Mysteries - Your Mother Was a Hamster! (The Omen 1976)

Okay, maybe not a hamster, but a jackal. (seriously, no one can do a snotty Frenchman better than John Cleese, but I digress...) In Richard Donner's 1976 (I'm trying to will the 2006 one out of existence) classic "Satanic Panic" flick The Omen dealt with many, many things. While it was eclipsed for many by The Exorcist (1972) as a religious horror film, The Omen is an ambitious film in terms of scope and story. In many ways, as my boyfriend pointed out, it is more of an adventure film which encompasses a lot of set up within the Thorn family and then has several characters travel extensively to solve the mystery of whether or not the Thorn's son, Damien, is in fact the Antichrist.

Even though people are dying all around him, dipolmat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) can't quite believe that his son Damien is the Antichrist. When his wife Kathy (Lee Remick) gave birth, Thorn was told his son was stillborn but another child had been born that night and the mother had died. The sketchy Italian priest assures him that it's absolutely fine and they should take the orphaned baby. Things get increasingly weird as Kathy begins to reject Damien and all the things a priest warns Thorn about come true. In a last ditch attempt to know once and for all Thorn goes back to Italy to look for the body of Damien's true mother. When he finally finds her grave and opens the casket, he find the skeleton of a jackal. Which is super creepy, weird and jarring but how the hell is a jackal involved? The Omen is a fantastic example of a film not overly explaining the odd things that happen in the movie. You have to accept that the Antichrist exists in this film otherwise you just won't have any fun. The jackal moment is one of the moments in the film that is creepy, surreal and never quiet explained. Surely, thought I, there must be answers on yon interwebz! But, oddly enough, there aren't.

Well The Omen uses some fake-y religion to keep things moving,but surely there must be some clear and concise mythology that Donner and screenwriter David Seltzer pull from to make all the creepy stuff up, right? RIGHT?! I was able to find some clarification about the scenes leading up to the jackal un-earthing which helps since the trip to Italy happens rather quickly and I was sleepy and there seemed to be a lot of ADR at that point at that point...
Robert and Jennings went to Italy to find the priest who gave him Damien. They learned that the  hospital  and its birth records where Damien were destroyed in a mysterious fire five years before. They found the priest in a monastery hospital. He was in serious condition – severely burned and could only move his left hand. He pointed to where they could find Damien’s mother’s grave. They discovered the cemetery was in the ruins of a shrine dedicated to the devil-god Techulca and graves of Damien's mother and the Thorns' baby. There were jackal’s remains in the mother’s grave and the baby’s skull was crushed. As they left the cemetery, they were attacked by a pack of dogs led by a Rottweiler. (Source)

There seems to be no affirmed source or mythology for a child being born of a jackal.(if there is and I've totally missed it, PLEASE let me know) This may have been all Seltzer's doing and fair enough, it is creepy and very disconcerting. What is for certain is that the Devil is Damien's true father and that the name on the jackal's coffin is Maria Scianna, a Greek name meaning "Mary of Shadow". One theory states that his mother was a jackal because no woman would bore the Antichrist. Another theory has it that the Devil manifested on Earth, had sex with a lady and the lady (after birth I assume) died and turned into a jackal. (Source) On that same page the Egyptian god Anubis is also mentioned but the 3 minutes I spent reading the Wikipedia page didn't turn up anything conclusive. In a round up of what different animals represent through a collective mythology a jackal is a "guide of souls, associated with cemeteries." (Source)

This Horror Mystery doesn't have an answer. I'm truly dumbfounded. I think the Omen broke my brain. I need to lie down now.

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