Director(s): John Moore
Writer(s): David Seltzer
Cast: Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber, Mia Farrow, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Gambon and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick
Reviewed by: Christine Lambert on
Release Date(s)Jun 6, 2006 - Wide
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The Omen is a remake of the 1976 horror film that starred Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. This 2006 version updates itself by showing clips of true-life horrors that are signs of impeding doom such as the World Trade Center Towers being hit, nations at war, and the tsunami. We’re also reminded of the prophecies of the Book of Revelations and the passage that refers to the Anti-Christ’s arrival and the mark of the beast, 666.
Liev Schreiber plays Robert Thorn, a senior American diplomat, and Julia Stiles plays his wife, Katherine. At the start, the couple has just lost their baby during childbirth. Not wanting to devastate his wife who has already been through the heartache of two miscarriages, Robert agrees to take another child whose mother just died in childbirth. He’s urged to do this by a priest in the hospital who assures Robert that no one would know the difference.
The Thorns move to Great Britain where Robert becomes the U.S. Ambassador. Though their family life starts out normal, things start to go awry around their son Damien when he is 5 years old. These events begin to scare Katherine and she starts to fear her son. Robert is convinced that the events are all coincidences and dismiss warnings from an elderly priest, Father Brennan (Pete Postlethwaite), that his son is the devil. Fighting his doubts, Robert becomes ever more convinced of his son’s differences when a photographer Keith Jennings (David Thewlis) shows him photos of various people in different situations who later faced an untimely demise. Needing to know the truth about Damien and the son that died at birth, Robert and Keith set out to Italy to find the truth about the day Damien came into their lives.
There are going to be the inevitable comparisons to the 1976 original. That’s the plight of the remake, where one can almost hear the old curmudgeon in the background. “In my day, there were no such thing as digital effects…” This film’s update has the lead characters younger than the ’76 version. The special effects department has some memorable moments both good and bad. An effective moment occurs when Father Brennan meets his end. An unintentionally laughable moment happens when Katherine falls in her home.
The cinematographer takes us on a beautiful journey through Prague, which is standing in for London and Italy. Simple shots like Katherine and Damien near the water are gorgeous. The sweeping landscape shots are breathtaking. The scenes in the churches are beautiful and the architecture awe-inspiring.
Schreiber and Stiles give convincing performances that make you feel their inner turmoil even though their feelings about Damien are very different. It’s almost an emotional tug of war where the viewer doesn’t know whose side to take. Mia Farrow, no cinematic stranger to baby devils, is quite disturbing as Damien’s second nanny. Even though the performance is a great one, it is unfortunate that events in her private life have seemed to overshadow her work. In a smaller role, David Thewlis is incredible playing the greedy, obviously opportunistic press photographer who turns vulnerable when he realizes that he is a big part of the situation with Damien.
The only real problem I have with the film is with Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) himself. If anything should have been a direct rip-off of the original, it should have been casting that little boy. First off, Damien is supposed to be 5 years old, Seamus looks more like he’s 10. The original Damien had a very sweet, almost angelic, face. This Damien, however, is no angel. He’s constantly sneering and giving the evil eye (no pun intended, ok, maybe a little) IN EVERY SCENE. The reason this doesn’t work is because things are more interesting when they are played in opposites. For example, in a comedy, a 250-lb. linebacker being attacked by a miniature poodle will most likely garner laughs because it is the opposite from reality. In a drama, the molestation of a young boy is far more compelling when a trusted person such as a priest, rather than a stranger in the overcoat, does the atrocious act. In this story, how could Damien be so evil, if he’s so cute? It’s a dichotomy that should have been available to the viewer. Where there should be some sympathy and inner turmoil from the audience about not wanting anything bad to happen to him, you find yourself routing for his death very early on. For those who have seen the original, the last thing Damien says to his father is hard to watch because it is an “innocent” little boy delivering the lines. When this updated Damien recites the same line, it is so unconvincing you want to help the dad in his fight against him.
The remake of The Omen is definitely an interesting film, but if you are a fan of the original, you may want to stay away from this version. On its own, it gives the viewer a watchable film that gives more than its share of thrills and jumps. It will certainly please those that like to be scared easily. If, however, you have seen the original, you will find yourself wondering what the point was to remake an already great film. The motivation behind this remake simply appears to be the chance to have a 6-6-‘06 release date.
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