The Omen


Reviewed by: Leanne McGrath

The Omen remake
"Richard Donner's seminal spine-chiller from the Seventies should have been left well alone, instead of transformed into a laughable excuse for horror, with all the chills of a red hot poker."

There are certain cinema classics that studios should never attempt to remake (Citizen Kane, Gone With The Wind, Casablanca). Gus Van Sant was universally panned in 1998 for daring to recreate Hitchcock's masterpiece Psycho. It was sacrilege.

John Moore and 20th Century Fox should have heeded this advice when they decided to remake The Omen. Like other landmarks on the plains of fear, such as The Exorcist and Halloween, Richard Donner's seminal spine-chiller from the Seventies should have been left well alone, instead of transformed into a laughable excuse for horror, with all the chills of a red hot poker.

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But hey! They have a good release date - 06.06.06 - the number of the Beast. So why not? This is cynical marketing at its best that will almost certainly pay off at the box office. Boo! Hiss!

The original film offered a sense of creeping dread and genuine threat. The remake removes that effective subtlety and shoves "evil" right under your nose in bright Technicolor, with a couple of jokey monsters thrown in for good measure.

The story is the same (David Seltzer scripted both). An American ambassador is told his newborn son did not survive the delivery. His wife does not know, so when a priest offers him the chance to adopt a child whose mother died in childbirth, he accepts and the couple raise the boy as their own. But little Damien is not what he seems. He is the Antichrist, the son of the Devil, sent to destroy mankind.

Aside from a new scene at the beginning and a new death early on that could rival the imaginative killings in the Final Destination series, Seltzer remains faithful to his original. It opens in Rome now, where the Pope and various high-ranking cardinals fear the dawn of the Apocalypse. All the signs indicated in the Bible, particularly from the Book of Revelations, are there. The Jews have returned to Zion, a comet has ripped the sky, the treaty of Rome in the European Union indicates the rise of the Holy Roman Empire. Add to this sense of doom, the fearful state of the modern world - Iraq still in turmoil, nuclear weapons proliferation threatening, bird flu about to usher in a worldwide pandemic, Noel Edmonds back on TV.

Suddenly, the idea of an Antichrist, coming to finish it off, doesn't seem so ridiculous. But the subtle fear, instilled by this threat is removed. Moore's picture of evil is a bright and often hilarious one. Damien is bad, demonic - the mise en scene shouts it from every possible angle - and you are never allowed to forget.

In a modern house, the five-year-old's bedroom is dark, dreary and creepy. Instead of Bob The Builder wallpaper, Damien's room has cream walls with a pattern of dark vines, flowerbeds and thorns. The loops of these spell out the number six across the room. What Moore might have thought was a nice touch simply looks ridiculous and over-the-top. Added to this are the bright, blood red bedclothes, cushions and toys and the so-bad-it's-funny drawing of a stereotypical horned devil, signed by Damien.

Ok, we get it. He's not a good kid.

Other dreadful touches include Damien's mum (Julia Stiles) seeing monsters in dreams and her son wearing devil masks. It's more cheesy than chilling and the movie only has one good jump-out-of-your-seat scare in the whole thing and there are times when you wonder whether this is a Scary Movie parody.

Liev Schreiber, no match for the original's Gregory Peck, as Robert Thorn, and his screen wife Kathy (Stiles) plod through the motions. There's no chemistry between them and you feel no sympathy for either. Only Damien's Rottweiler guard dog has any bite, although Seamus Davey Fitzpatrick does make a chilling Devil's spawn, with his wide-eyed staring and silence.

Heavyweights, such as Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Gambon, bring some credibility, while David Thewlis is entertaining and puts in a good turn as photographer Keith Jennings. Mia Farrow is also impressive as nanny-come-devil-guardian Mrs Baylock. One minute she's Mary Poppins, the next Michael Myers. But then, she's had experience with the Antichrist, having given birth to him in Rosemary's Baby.

Fans of The Omen (1976) should steer well clear, although newcomers might enjoy it. The return of the Antichrist, awsome as a concept and potentially more destructive than the doomsday bomb, will instil as much dread as the Andrex puppy - insert your own shit joke here.

Reviewed on: 06 Jun 2006
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The Antichrist rises again to terrify a new generation and bring about the Apocalypse... now
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Read more The Omen reviews:

Hotcow ****1/2
Jennie Kermode ***1/2
Paul Griffiths ***

Director: John Moore

Writer: David Seltzer

Starring: Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber, Mia Farrow, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Gambon, Seamus Davey Fitzpatrick

Year: 2006

Runtime: 110 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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The Omen