Its all a little messed up to be honest. I watched this a while ago and came away feeling non-plussed. I think the idea of an antichrist is clearly a great idea for a movie, while practically having an actor effective as the antichrist is something different. Probably why the film rests on Gregory Peck's shoulders, and even Damien - the antichrist - needs a nanny to fight off the good guys.
Now, maybe its rooted in some fascinating back-story and history - akin to the history of Dracula and Frankenstein, but I have a funny feeling its not. I mean, 666. Yeah, we get it - the number of the devil. "Born on the the 6th of the 6th of 1966" at 6.06am. Just because you can't do 6.66am. Or maybe you can. he is the antichrist.
As mentioned in the introduction - it wasn't particularly new. Exorcist and Don't Look Now was years before this, so you know it was a product of the new kids-as-evil craze that was sweeping through Hollywood so you have to ask yourself the question - what was so special about this one, because, honestly, I'm not too sure. Its a boy for one - alot of the pre-pubescent girls-who-are-possessed/evil often have some subtext of girls growing up and all that puberty stuff. Exorcist is a prime example, while this is a boy possessed since birth. The horrors are visual also - impaling on a church fence and the dogs, which are adds to the fear factor, but I felt it was all a bit horror-by-numbers and, alas, I am in an awkwards position because I don't know exactly the context it was released within in '76 as I was not born for another four years. maybe there is something about modern day outlook (London) versus traditional, religious outlook (Rome/Vatican). aith was beginning to be less important in society in the seventies, so these little digs at Catholocism might be a product of that - how technology (photography) is, bit-by-bit, making us ignore the real question of faith.
I can't knock the score by Jerry Goldsmith - but it hardly beats The Exorcist now, does it? The little gander I have had of other materials claims that it got more credability because it is played as a Thriller (hmmm...) and that the sequence of the lady hanging herself, happy-as-larry ("this is all for you Damien") is indeed, messed up and can't be really topped by other horrors.
Nevertheless, I have a funny feeling that the franchise this spawned, combined with the notion of a 'Damien/antichrist' tag (To the point that Only Fools and Horses references it) used in pop culture has given us the impression that this film is important to the canon of cinema - or at the very least of horror, when in fact, it just happened to benefit from publicity it didn't ask for.