When US diplomat Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) learns his son has died immediately after birth, he agrees to a plan to save his wife, Katherine (Julia Stiles), from the pain of knowing it. Thorn takes a baby whose mother had died in labour, and raises Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) as his son. Promoted, Thorn moves to London, where at Damien's fifth birthday soirée, his nanny hangs herself in spectacular fashion. Thus begins a kinesis of increasingly violent and ominous events, slowly fulfilling the prophecies of Father Brennan (Pete Postlethwaite), who believes that Damien is the spawn of Satan. Explosions, beheadings, and a cheerily threatening au pair, Mrs Baylock (Mia Farrow), follow. (A remake of Richard Donner's 1976 classic.)
Review by Joel Meares:
I am not entirely convinced that The Omen (1976) needed to be remade, but having seen director John Moore's take on the anti-Christ infancy, I am glad that it was. Not nearly as bloated, dull and self-important as the original (a minority opinion, I concede), there is an exuberance in this version that, more than most horror films, had me smiling throughout. Moore's narrative revisions are minimal - the Thorns are younger; someone sends an email; Damien rides a razor scooter, not a tricycle - but his energy is infectious. The Omen is for the most part a loud, frightening, obnoxious thrill ride, a definitional guilty pleasure.
The overreach of Moore's film is ludicrously tickling; I loved the preamble in which the Pope receives a Pentagon-style presentation explaining the signs of the arriving Armageddon. This ferocious directness, a filmmaker cutting to the point, is mirrored later when a nurse is told that a patient is pregnant, to which she responds as if offering a sit-com quip, "I'm afraid not" (a character has miscarried). When the horror comes, Marco Beltrami's score is equally, blissfully, overstated. It thunders over the bloody events on screen with the kind of choired arrogance best suited to this material.
As a horror film, The Omen works very well. Its leaping dogs and crazy nannies had the critics in my screening shrieking. The performances too are well pitched. Schreiber, with the clownishly big shoes of Gregory Peck to fill, does an excellent job, believably stoic and eventually distraught as Robert. Stiles struggles at first, but eventually convinces quietly as the target of Damien's unwanted affections.
Unsurprisingly, however, Farrow leaves the greatest impression. Channelling Julie Andrews as the newcomer nanny, hers is an understated menace that will eventually explode in some of the film's best moments. A needle full of oxygen certainly makes the medicine go down! Though not without its flaws, and perhaps precisely because of them, Moore's film is a fun time to be had. Sacrilege, blasphemy, cinematic treason, here goes: this version of The Omen is better than the original.
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OMEN, THE (M)
CAST: Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Michael Gambon, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Mia Farrow
PRODUCER: John Moore, Glenn Williamson
DIRECTOR: John Moore
SCRIPT: David Seltzer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jonathan Sela
EDITOR: Dan Zimmerman
MUSIC: Marco Beltrami
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Patrick Lumb
RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 6, 2006
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: January 24, 2007