A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The forces of evil here are portrayed as much stronger and better-organized than those who represent good, who seem mostly clueless or marginalized as fanatics. Ambassador Thorn and his wife are decent people and caring parents -- not that this counts for much in the end. It's poignant that Thorn doesn't just fall for the first allegations that Damien is demonic, but puts off the truth as long as he can.
Violence & Scariness
Deaths are grotesque and explicit, with a man skewered (the corpse left standing upright) by a falling lightning rod, a woman committing suicide by hanging in public, another fatally falling, and an especially notorious decapitation. There is a violent, ultimately fatal beat-down between a man and a woman, and a man is shot trying to kill a child.
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God's name in a mostly hellfire-and-brimstone context.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a classic horror feature, with a child complicit in his (adoptive) mother's own death and evil triumphant in the end (with the qualifier that it was conceived as just the first in a series of films, so it's just the opening installment, not the whole story). It casts a small boy in an especially negative light as the literal antichrist, for whom the only fair treatment, according to this, is a ritual execution by knife. The gory deaths and injuries, including decapitation and impalements, were considered shockingly explicit in their day. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This 1976 shocker is sturdily built but predictable, with its extravagant death scenes tending to stand out more so than the lugubrious narrative. The plot sounds pretty compelling indeed, but in cinematic terms it mostly translates as a string of spectacular deaths (usually in horrendous accidents that are not exactly Acts of God) for anyone who poses a threat to Damien -- with lots of "dead" space in between, as Thorn struggles to confirm/deny the omen-ous truth. Characterizations don't go very deep, but horror fans will appreciate the new ground this film broke.
As far as themes, there's the sense of a modern, secular world in which the bulwarks of traditional Christianity are absent or weak. This means even decent people like the Thorns are powerless when an unseen but very hands-on devil and his minions take the offense.
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Our Editors Recommend
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