The Omen

Thirty years on from the original, this remake of The Omen stays faithful to the plot and characters but lacks the chills and grandeur of the original.

Some bright spark at 20th Century Fox has been eagerly awaiting the date of 06/06/06 so they could release a remake The Omen. There aren’t many films I can think of that have so much of their marketing campaign dependant on an actual date. Indeed, whether by luck or design it is being re-released around the world on this day just as the world is swept up in the religious nonsense of The Da Vinci Code. Fate? A studio selling its soul? Whatever the case it seems like some movie marketing prophecy has finally come to pass.

For the uninitiated, the story involves the US ambassador to Britain who gradually finds out that his adopted son Damien is the antichrist after numerous people around him starts dying in the diabolical circumstances – often in the presence of slobbering dogs and a sinister nanny. The date of his birth? Why, that would be the 6th day of the 6th month of the 6th year. Plus, he also has ‘the number of the beast’ (666) written on his forehead for good measure.

In the original Gregory Peck played the ambassador and Lee Remick was his wife. It is still an effective horror that gains a lot of its power from Jerry Goldsmith’s marvellous score and the serious way in which it treats the extremely hokey aspects of the Bible, in particular the prophecies in the Book of Revelations. In this remake Liev Schreiber plays the ambassador Robert Thorn and Julia Stiles his wife whilst a number of fine actors like Pete Postlethwaite, Mia Farrow, David Thewlis and Michael Gambon pop up in supporting roles.

Director John Moore has gone for a faithful and conventional approach, sticking very closely to the original with a few relatively minor stylistic touches that differentiate it from Donner’s film. Some of these involve some snappy editing and jerky dream sequences that are effective and certain scenes retain their power to disturb. But the problem at the heart of this whole project is that the original Omen is a film that doesn’t really lend itself to a remake. Time and time again as each familiar hanging or decapitation unfolds I was reminded at how much more chilling the first film was.

This problem is further exacerbated by the moderate budget Fox seem to have allocated the film. Despite containing some very good actors, the visual scope of the film is hampered – witness the dodgy CGI London Eye in the background in the scenes at the ambassador’s country mansion and the Czech signs at the climax of the film that reveal the Prague location of the shoot. If you haven’t seen the original then you may enjoy this as it is certainly a cut above recent lazy gore fests like Hostel, but if want to experience the real deal then you should get Richard Donner’s film on DVD.

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