"Did I scare you, mommy?" — Damien
OK, I've talked a lot about remakes lately, especially horror.
Hills Have Eyes. Dark
Amityville Horror. Hollywood loves remakes. They almost
always guarantee money because the first one made the grade.
But sometimes, something happens where you just have to do
a remake of a movie, and never mind the money. Some confluence
of events occurs where not remaking the movie would be a crime.
A once-in-a-lifetime set of circumstances that cry out for a
movie to return to the theatre. In most cases the best thing
to do would be to re-release the original. But that itch to
totally redo something, with modern special effects, is too
strong to ignore. And this time, I can't blame them. Who could
resist releasing a new Omen movie on 6/6/06?
So. Is the new version any good? Well . . . almost.
The first problem is the casting. The original movie had Gregory
Peck as the lead. Peck was a great dramatic actor who brought
gravitas and an instant level of respect to the movie. This
time we have Liev "Scream 3" Schreiber in the role of
U.S. Ambassador Robert Thorne.
Now I'm not saying Schreiber is a bad actor, because he's not.
He's a great supporting actor, having done great work in The
Manchurian Candidate and other movies — but he didn't
have the weight to carry this flick. You need a strong actor
to portray an ambassador who's raising the spawn of Satan. They
should have gone for someone like Anthony Hopkins. That would
have been cool. Lecter
vs. Damien. Perhaps they could have debated the nature of evil
over some liver and fava beans.
The second problem was casting Julia "Mona Lisa Smile"
Stiles as his wife. Throughout the movie, she's just kinda .
. . there. Part of it is that there's not a whole lot for her
to do but look worried about Damien being weird, or scream.
In the few scenes she has where she has to portray a woman who
comes to believe her own son is evil, she just doesn't carry
The rest of the cast, however, is exceptional. A host of great
character actors fill all the supporting roles, but they just
don't have anyone to support. We have Pete "The Usual Suspects"
Postlethwaite as Father Brennan, a priest who's come to regret
his role in getting Damien into the world. And whoever decided
to cast Mia Farrow, the original Mother of the Son of the Devil
in "Rosemary's Baby" as Ms. Baylock, the literal Nanny
from Hell, deserves a medal.
And for future "Six
Degrees" players, this movie has two connections to the
Potter movies. We have David "Lupin"
Thewlis as photographer Keith Jennings and Dumbledore
himself, Michael Gambon as Bugenhagen, the man who gives Thorne
the only weapons that can stop Damien from raising Hell on Earth.
All these supporting actors know how to make the most of their
small parts, and it's a shame that Schreiber and Stiles let
them down by being so flat in their performances.
The sad thing is, the rest of the movie is in this vein. Some
moments are very good, but glaring faults overwhelm the cool
stuff. Moore will probably be a great director someday. He's
got a good eye and filmed some great tense scenes. but in some
places he wanders and loses focus.
The script does a decent job at recapturing and updating the
feel of the original in some spots, but it rambles and feels
rushed or jumbled in others. There are some great subtle moments
that the score underlies perfectly, only to blare to 10,000
decibels at a "shock" moment.
There are moments of genius in the movie: Father Brennan running
through the rain as his doom approaches. The opening where the
Vatican examines the "omens" that reveal that the Antichrist
is coming. The scene in the Italian graveyard where Thorne and
Jennings dig up Damien's real mother. The wallpaper in Damien's
room, a series of S-shaped overlapping vines that make the room
a host of 666's. The scene where Damien's riding his scooter
around the top floor, closing on his mother.
That leads us to the film's biggest flaw: Damien, played by
Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick. Seamus has these piercing blue eyes,
and when you look at him in the movie he practically jumps up
and down screaming "LOOK! I'M EVIL! SPAWN OF SATAN! BOOOOO!"
The kid in the original, Harvey Stephens (who has a cameo in
the flick), could look evil, but he could also look perfectly
innocent. It was plausible that all the people who thought Damien
was demonic were just out of their gourd.
This time, you wonder why Dad took such convincing.