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The Omen Tag

Horror movies derive most of their power and enjoyment (you sicko) from a combination of novelty and surprise.The novelty: how the filmmakers will have this particular bad guy stalk and kill the good guys. The surprise: OHMYGODLOOKOUTBEHINDYOUDREWBARRYMORE! Nevertheless, because horror movies are eternally popular, Hollywood remakes

35 years ago, on June 6, 1976, a seminal film in both the Satan-on-earth and creepy kid genres opened in the U.K. and would later open June 25 in the U.S. For about a year around that time, the only way I could experience The Omen was from the Mad magazine parody and from all my friends at school. Apparently I was the only 5th-grader in the world who wasn’t allowed to see it.

About a year later, in the summer of 1977, we had just gotten this new contraption called Showtime which allowed you to watch movies uncut with no commercials in your living room. It was a little box that sat on top of the TV. To turn on Showtime you tuned your television channel to 3 and turned the dial on the box over to “premium.” Back then, the day’s programming generally began early evening. They showed two movies, followed by the same two movies repeated, and that would be it.

The Omen was the second R-rated film my parents let me see — the first being the Roger Corman produced classic Death Race 2000 (1975) directed by Paul Bartel. Of course I had no idea who Roger Corman was yet, but I would soon learn that if I watched a decent action flick with some cool car crashes, chances are Corman had a hand in it.

I was a couple of months shy of my 12th birthday when I sat down one evening to watch The Omen. That’s right, I said evening. It was 10 o’clock, my parents had gone to bed, and I was up by myself. From the first bars of Jerry Goldsmith’s main title music, I was scared.

In pop culture, lists are everything. They lend a sense of order to an otherwise orderless world. From film and literature to music, critics and readers alike love to put things in tidy rows. It is with this in mind that Popdose presents Listmania, a weekly series counting down the staff’s favorite things.

Be it zombies, vampires, ghosts, goblins or ghouls, everyone has specific fear triggers. For some of us it’s murderous dolls; others prefer the supernatural, either way most of us love a good scare. It was with this in mind that we asked the staff to list the twenty films that scared the living daylights out of them. We chopped, sliced and diced the results and came up with the twenty most terrifying moments in cinematic history, at least according to frightened masses at Popdose.

And if that isn’t scary enough, the good folks at Warner Bros. have a treat for one lucky reader: a free iTunes download of the Director’s Cut of The Exorcist, featuring never seen before behind the scenes footage and interviews with director William Friedkin, actress Linda Blair and author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatt. All you have to do to enter is send an e-mail to Jason with the subject “My Best Recipe for Pea Soup!” All entries must be received before midnight, October 29. The winner will be selected randomly and notified by e-mail.

So if you’ll just walk this way, because they’re coming to get you…

With a movie literally called Devil coming out this weekend, I decided to take a look at some memorable films in which Satan has taken shape in one way or another. People weary of spoilers should proceed with caution, as at least one film on this list intended that devilish revelation as a twist ending.

The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941). When the Devil, who goes by Mr. Scratch (Walter Huston), comes to collect a soul of a New Hampshire farmer who made a deal with him, orator Daniel Webster (Edward Arnold) agrees to defend the farmer in a court case — with Webster’s own soul now at stake. Scratch’s “jury of the damned” (as described by Webster) consists of (as described by Scratch) “Dastards, liars, traitors, knaves … Americans all.” Adapted from Stephen Vincent Benét’s short story, the film was originally released under the title All That Money Can Buy. Bernard Herrmann won his only Oscar for his score to this film, beating out his own score for Citizen Kane that year.

Crossroads (1986). Walter Hill directed this tale, inspired by the “true story” of blues legend Robert Johnson who, according to myth, made a deal with the Devil in exchange for his musical abilities. The final guitar duel between Eugene (Ralph Macchio) and “Scratch’s” guitar player (Steve Vai) is pretty epic as guitar battles for the soul go.

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Hiya, kids! This week’s mix is brought to you by Jeff Johnson, who’s been a friend of mine since high school. Ever since I’ve known him, Jeff’s tastes in music have skewed toward the soundtrack side, specifically orchestral soundtracks. We attended film school together (I changed majors at the end of my junior year), and he went on to write and direct a feature film called Holly vs. Hollywood. Nowadays Jeff is happily ensconced as the online store manager at the ever-popular soundtrack store (and record label) Intrada in Oakland, California. Intrada is one of those rare record stores where they not only exclusively stock movie soundtracks, they also restore and reissue them. Jeff also cohosts the podcast Filmed, Not Stirred with his gal pal Lisa. It’s unique because they review a new movie and compare it with an older movie in a similar genre or director. So you see? There is life after film school! —Ted

You’re about to discover six pieces of music you’re not even really supposed to notice. So what is it about film-music geeks that makes it virtually impossible for them to watch a film without noticing its music? And even more curious, why would they want to listen to it on its own?

In coming up with this list of my favorite soundtrack cues, two things are obvious: 1) all the pieces are composed by either Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams, and 2) they were all composed between 1976 and 1982. I don’t know what that means, except to say that I discovered all of them when I was between the ages of 11 and 17. I had them all on vinyl and played them so many times as a kid that I wore out the records. These aren’t necessarily the best pieces of film music, but they are some of my favorites.