Mania Grade: C+
Maniac Grade: A
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- Reviewed Format: Theatrical Release
- Rated: R
- Stars: Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Mia Farrow, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite
- Writer: David Seltzer
- Director: John Moore
- Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Those who remember silly but profitable horror movies of the past are prophesied to remake them ...
By Abbie Bernstein
June 06, 2006
Harvey Stevens as Damien in THE OMEN (1976).
© 20th Century Fox
While not a shot-for-shot recreation, the 2006 remake of THE OMEN
is remarkably similar to the 1976 original which, among other things, means that it's awfully hard to take the movie seriously most of the time, despite several impressive jolting scares.
Writer David Seltzer, who also scripted the first OMEN
, has added a few flourishes to indicate we're in a new millennium and coming upon the ominous date June 6, 2006 i.e., 666, the Number of the Beast (not coincidentally, also the day of the new film's opening). However, we're otherwise on turf that will be familiar to people who've seen the first movie American diplomat Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber), told that his wife Katherine (Julia Stiles) has given birth to a stillborn child, allows a priest to talk him into substituting an orphaned newborn boy for the dead infant. Robert elects not to tell Katherine of the switch. Shortly thereafter, Robert is promoted to be the U.S. ambassador to London.
All seems well (apart from Katherine having severe nightmares) until little Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) turns five. The nanny commits suicide at Damien's birthday party, strange accidents occur, Katherine grows enormously depressed and the Thorns find themselves with a seemingly kindly but very odd new childcare person, Mrs. Baylock (Mia Farrow, in an inspired piece of casting), who seems to share a great bond with Damien. Between the observations of worried photographer Keith Jennings (David Thewlis) who sees oddities in the pictures he takes and the babblings of overwrought Father Brennan (Pete Postlethwaite), Robert comes around to the notion that his adopted son might have a seriously bad birth father like perhaps Satan.
Now, just as back in 1976, there's no reason this premise can't work except that everybody behaves in such bone-headed fashion that it's hard to take most of it seriously. Robert's failure to even tell Katherine of the baby swap, much less consult her, is all by itself an act so high-handed that we don't need to look to a supernatural explanation as to why Katherine's depressed. On the flip side, it's one thing for Father Brennan to be frantic, but if he really wants to save the world and needs Robert to do it, there are better ways to introduce himself than by launching into hysterical yet cryptic pronouncements. Finally, there's Damien, who is persuasive as a bad seed, maybe even a telekinetic one, but the supernatural nastiness, so far as we can see, manages just fine without him we're even less convinced than the doubting Robert that the fate of the world rests with this kid.
There's also a problem with Schreiber's performance, at least in the context of THE OMEN
remake. It's not that the acting is bad it is in fact what would be a wonderful characterization of a reserved man experiencing a mounting crisis in an insane situation. Unfortunately, Schreiber's work here seems pitched at a much subtler, more nuanced drama than this one. With everybody else doing much broader work, Schreiber seems largely remote. Thewlis fares better as the nervous but pragmatic photographer, Stiles invites empathy for her character's fear, and Farrow Rosemary herself looks like she's having a blast.
The gore is respectable and director John Moore and writer Seltzer come up with some good jolts (though the two never meet). However, there's not a lot of story logic and therefore not a lot of momentum, with far too much downtime between any remotely gripping events. The remake is instructive in reminding us how much FINAL DESTINATION 3
owes to the original OMEN
, but it's neither added any new twists to justify updating it nor a through-line to make it more gripping. After seeing the remake of THE OMEN
, one comes to the conclusion that it appears to have been inspired primarily by a desire to cash in on the date 6-6-06, which is not a good sign of creativity.