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The Omen
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2006

Format: Movie
By:   John Moore (director)
Genre:   Horror
Released:   6/6/06
Review Date:   June 21, 2006
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   6/10 (What Is This?)

"Did I scare you, mommy?" — Damien

OK, I've talked a lot about remakes lately, especially horror. The Hills Have Eyes. Dark Water. The 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 it off.

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 Harry 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.

RevSF spankmuppet and staff writer Gary Mitchel is currently attempting to prevent the conception of the Antichrist by stealthily applying Ortho Evra patches to random strangers he thinks Satan might find “bang-worthy”.

 
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