The Omen (2006) Review

Director(s): John Moore
Actor(s): Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick
Running Time: 110 min

One can assume that seeing a film about the Anti-Christ on 6-6-6 is probably pushing some kind of luck, if not fate. But I give Fox credit for ceasing the marketing moment and capitalizing on one the most numerically symbolic dates on the calendar. Of course the rational minded know that 6-6-6 ng1033has about as much meaning as 2-2-2, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun; whether it’s an all night party in Hell, MI or sitting in a packed movie house to watch the remake of The Omen.?

First a word about the 1976 original. While it’s true that Richard Donner’s The Omen is one of the best horror films to grace the screen, one can hardly debate that it isn’t cheesy. It’s tag0 100 per cent, grade A, Hollywood cheddar; complete with wooden acting, a campy screenplay, and numerous awesome, though highly ludicrous kills. So what’s not to love? This is Donner in his prime, the same decade long stretch that gave us Superman The Movie, The Goonies and the first Lethal Weapon. The ultimate parental nightmare: what do you do when your kid’s the friggin’ Anti-Christ? 0

Perhaps that’s why director John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines) went with the decision to recruit original Omen writer David Seltzer to update his script for the new millennium. The result is a movie that’s more of a cover of the original as opposed to an all-out remake, or heaven forbid, a “re-imagining”. What Seltzer and Moore have managed to do is give The Omen a new paint job as well as changing some of the mechanics under the hood, rather than taking the blue prints and building an exact replica. (I’m thinking of Gus Van Sant’s ill-advised shot-by-shot remake of 33Psycho here.)

Here’s the story if you don’t already know it. Robert Thorn (Liev Scheriber) is an aide to the US ambassador to Italy, and on the night of June 6 he’s trying to get to his wife Kate (Julia Stiles),

lang1033 who is in a Catholic hospital in labour with their first child. When Robert gets to the hospital, he’s told by a priest that his child was stillborn and that his wife will probably be unable to give birth again. The priest offers Robert the chance to raise an orphaned boy as his own son; Robert fearing what the news of their unborn child would do to Kate, reluctantly accepts the boy they name Damien.

Robert gets promoted to ambassador of Great Britain after the untimely, not to mention grizzly, death of his boss. Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) is now celebrating his fifth birthday, and at an extravagant birthday party in his honour, his nanny rch (Amy Huck) feels compelled to make a statement. “Look at me Damien,” she says from the roof of the Thorn’s English mansion, “it’s all for you.” And then she leaps from the roof, rope wrapped around her neck, hanging herself.

So enter the mysterious Mrs. Baylock (Mia Farrow), she tells Damien that she’s been sent to protect him. We also meet Keith Jennings (David Thewlis), a photojournalist that covers the Thorns who discovers something odd about the pictures he’s taking of the people close to the family. That includes Father Brennan (Pete Postlethwaite), who’s desperately trying to warn Thorn about the danger within. Even Kate gets the impression that something’s not quite right with her boy.

I really must say that I found The Omen remake surprising, but in a good way. I was surprised at just how closely they sticked to the original script, further I was surprised at just how affecting that script still was. Even though I knew certain scares were coming, they still managed to catch me off guard.

The biggest differences between Donner’s version and Moore’s version is a stylistic one; the tone and set design is much more deliberate in Moore’s, where as Donner’s Omen seemed much more grounded in reality. (That is if you can attribute the phrase ‘reality’ to a movie about the son of the Devil walking the Earth.)

Some of the changes that Moore and Seltzer have made to the general story are mostly updates to make the script Y2K friendly. There’s an entirely new prologue at the Vatican as priests interpret current events through the Book of Revelation to be clues of the coming armageddon, including 9/11 and the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. Another new addition is Kate Thorn’s prophetic visions of demons and monsters.

Here’s where The Omen becomes both more intriguing, but at the same time a little more cumbersome. Allusions of modern disasters as signs of the apocalypse seems about as outlandish as claiming that Nostradamus preordained about 500 years of history. Kate’s visions meanwhile are hit and miss, the first one literally made the audience laugh out loud, and you don’t want your audience to laugh when you’re trying to shock them. Still, I overall liked the idea of Kate’s foreknowledge of her child’s evil, it’s a fitting spin on the idea that a mother always knows her son.

I wish though that the performances were equal to the ambition. Scheriber is far too wooden as compared to Gregory Peck in the same role from ’76, I guess somebody forgot to tell him he could emote to circumstances. Stiles fairs better, but even she doesn’t seem fully invested in the part. And great actors like Thewlis, Postlethwaite, and Michael Gambon seem wasted on one note characters. I have to say though that getting Farrow as Mrs Baylock was an inspired choice, but she doesn’t really recall the menace of Billie Whitelaw who played the part in the original.

The one improvement performance wise was Davey-Fitzpatrick as Damien; never has making a peanut butter sandwich seemed so menacing. In 1976, Damien was played by Harvey Stephens, and as much as I don’t like to knock a child actor, I really just didn’t buy him as completely evil with his apple dumpling cheeks. Davey-Fitzpatrick though gives Damien this odd, post-ADD, detached gaze in Damien’s eyes that makes you wonder what’s going on internally. This kid could give lessons in restraint to actors four times his age.

Aside from the performances, a lot of the problems of the film lie in the screenplay; there are just too many leaps in logic to be believed. The Thorns seem to be able to overlook any number of warning signs that things aren’t right with Damien; like the fact that the kid doesn’t seem to talk, or the fact that he had no reaction to the events at his birthday party, or rather that his only reaction was to commit the nanny’s suicide to crayon and paper and putting the finished artwork on his bedroom wall. For the Thorns, these aren’t warning signs; but when Robert gets an e-mailed photo of the impaled priest that warned him his kid is evil, only then do you get a hint of worry.

Underneath all the lapses in logic and stilted performances there is a movie worth seeing in The Omen remake. Unlike me though you might not have got the chance to experience it in full 6-6-6 glory and unfortunately I believe that was the entire point of this to begin with. Consider this the rare instance in Hollywood where show and business have managed to find a comfortable middle ground.

The Omen (2006) Review 1
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