As a Vatican astronomer pours over biblical prophecies struggling to disprove his suspicions, Robert Thorn sits in an hospital ward trying to come to grips with the news that his newborn son is dead. Concerned about his wife’s already fragile state, Thorn agrees to hide the truth from his wife and raise an orphan child as his own. When Thorn’s mentor suffers an untimely demise he is promoted to the post of Ambassador of Great Britain. Soon after the young family is beset by a series of bizarre tragedies and Thorn is approached by a priest who informs him that his son will bring about the downfall of man and a time out simply isn’t an option.
Beware the prince of pouting...
The 1976 version of The Omen was among the best of the Devil-themed films that flooded the theaters to capitalize on the success of The Exorcist. Unlike its contemporaries however, The Omen didn’t rely on demonic make-up or buckets of pea soup to shock audiences. Instead, writer David Seltzer turned to Revelations for his source material providing a religious touchstone for his tale. Richard Donner’s direction combined with a washed out gritty look, and Jerry Goldsmith’s eerie score combined to make The Omen one of the best horror films of its era. The addition of Hollywood legend Gregory Peck as the embattled Thorn proved to be an inspired casting decision, however it was Harvey Stephens’ portrayal as Damien, the doughy demonic cherub, that proved to be the piece de resistance -– that was one scary little kid.
While horror flicks continue to draw audiences in search of a little (or a lot as the case may be) bloodletting, few if any feature the Devil as the antagonist. It’s possible that this provided the impetus to tackle the remake i.e. it was considered a “fresh” approach to the genre. Or it could be that the studios have once again run out of new ideas and decided to simply rehash an old moneymaker? Both probably played a part, however it’s more likely the story’s novelty aspect that played the decisive role in getting it the green light: even before it started filming The Omen remake was scheduled for release on June 6, 2006 aka 06/06/06. As marketing goes, a pretty solid choice, and they even brought David Selzer back to rework the script. But "What of substance?" you might ask? In this instance, imitation is not necessarily the sincerest form of flattery.
As a fan of the original film, it’s difficult not to make comparisons between it and the “re-envisioned” version, but I’ll do my best. I’ll start by saying that I thought the remake’s opening sequence – a series of recent historical events – was a clever lead in. I was both surprised and impressed by the casting choices, most notably Mia Farrow as the evil nanny (a nod to her role as the unwitting mother of the Anti-Christ in Rosemary’s Baby). Now I know why Woody gives her a wide berth. Pete Postlethwaite gives a solid performance as Father Brennan the grave vigilant priest who tries to enlighten Thorn about his son’s true origins. The perpetually grubby looking David Thewlis is engaging as the enlightened paparazzi who joins Thorn in his search for the truth. The main cast doesn’t fare as well
Although Julia Stiles is believable as Katherine Thorn, the mother to the Anti-Christ, she’s given scant opportunity to showcase her abilities and sadly spends the majority of her time looking terrified. Liev Schreiber on the other hand has too much screen time, and largely squanders it – he lacks the maturity and the gravitas necessary for his character. Ultimately however, it is Seamus Davey Fitzpatrick’s casting that is the weak point of the story – as the lynchpin of the piece he must be believable, or the story falls apart. Fitzpatrick succeeds only in making audiences laugh – when he attempts to look menacing, he delivers an expression which amounts to something between pouting and constipation. Hardly the stuff to send shivers down one’s spine.
In spite of some updates, including the use of seamless special effects (the novel decapitation scene was far and away my favorite), the story offers little that is fresh or exciting. If you’re in need of a scare rent the original.