Ed. note– If there were any way for me to remove the image Amazon has provided for this book, I would. If I put text only, it just lists the name without any explanation. Please don’t let the constipated looking kid from that lame remake six years ago prevent you from reading David Seltzer’s interesting novelization of his own script.– P.F.
Ah, that little bookstore by the lake. Several forces in my youth combined to turn me into an avid reader as a child, and eventually a master of English literature and language. There was Curious George, my first literary hero. There was the Sachem Public Library, a huge monument to books, a short bike ride down my street, Holbrook Road. And then there was the used book store by Lake Ronkonkoma. It was where I first fell in love with the smell of old books, the yellowed pages, the well worn spines and sometimes faded covers. I could get 10 paperbacks for six bucks, and at age 10, that was a few months’ reading. I loved when Mom would pull up to that shack on the lake, because I knew I would walk out with whole worlds in a small paper bag. One of the earliest books she bought for me there was Stephen King’s Cujo, the first real novel I ever read. Just as important was when I came out with David Seltzer’s novelization of The Omen. Though the fleshed out version for print isn’t quite as effective as the movie is for me today, it’s a solid version and a worthy read.
The main reason the novelization is about as good as you can expect from one is that Seltzer wrote the script for THE OMEN. Usually these things are work-for-hire sorts, where some hack takes the script and fleshes it out without any real feeling. But Seltzer created Damien and the Thorns, as well as all the other characters and incidents in the film. Having that intimacy of creation, he knows the works inside and out, and therefore scribes a deeper novel than anybody could rightfully have expected. This is the novel’s strength, and a credit to Seltzer’s mastery of the material.
As far as the plot itself, it’s relatively the same, only with the much greater detail afforded a novel by way of space. Conversations sometimes go on longer, and there are a few added incidents that shade characters, such as when a heckler disrupts Jeremy Thorn’s political speech (keep that name in mind). Some of the character details are more explicit, such as Kathy Thorn’s desperate need for a child because of her advanced age. A few of the high spots play out differently as well; the baboon attack from the film turns into a monkey frenzy inside cages. And the dogs in the novel are German Shepherds instead of Rottweilers (as producer Mace Neufeld explained in THE OMEN LEGACY, they were supposed to be Shepherds in the film, but a six-month quarantine prevented that). But if you know the film, you’ll be in comfortable territory with the novelization. None of Seltzer’s changes greatly change the story, even if the devil is in the details.
You may be surprised to find some of the familiar names are different. As Seltzer explained in a special feature, he originally named Robert Thorn “Jeremy,” after a Parliamentary politician. In the novelization for the sequel, his name returned to Robert. Jennings’ first name is now Haber, and Father Brennan is the decidedly Italian priest Father Tassone. Nothing Earth shattering, but interesting quirks.
As for Seltzer’s literary style… ehh. He’s effective, but his mastery of the written word leaves some to be desired. It’s very meat-and-potatoes, and comes across better on the screen than when he’s describing incidents or setting the stage. Some people just write better in a single medium, and Seltzer’s is definitely the script.
As a kid, The Omen novelization scared the Hell out of me. I’d read it before I’d seen the movie, and was terrified. I remember pouring over it again and again, the first adult book I would re-read, because it captivated and scared me. I re-read it today—it’s a quick read now, not the week-long effort it was in my youth—and it still makes my spine tingle. As an adult, however, it’s lost its impact a little. All the extra details mean it’s not quite as compact as the film. And as THE OMEN is my favorite horror film, and one of my favorite films overall, it can’t compare. It’s a sin against everything I’ve ever held true as an avid reader, but just as with ‘Salem’s Lot, this is a case of the movie trumping the written word. Forgive me, Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Reading Seltzer’s novel today brought me back to my youth. I could smell all the books in that little shack by the lake, and it was like I was transported, standing on the creaky floor boards as I perused that beautiful collection of used books. No Kindle can ever compare to that experience, no matter what anybody tells me. On that note alone, I’m glad I still have my dog-eared copy Mom bought me when I was 10.
If you want to get a full idea of what David Seltzer had in mind when he took on the task of writing the script for THE OMEN, pick up this novel. It’s a worthwhile read for OMEN purists, and you can purchase through Amazon, as it’s been re-released. Or if you’re lucky, you can find a magical little bookstore that will have a beat up second hand copy. The preferable way to reacquaint yourself with Damien Thorn, of course.