The Omen

2006-09-01 18:50


It is the 6th of June and a young diplomat named Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) rushes to a hospital in Rome to attend the birth of his son. When he arrives, a priest greets him with tragic news - the child is dead, and his wife Katherine (Julia Stiles) will not conceive again. Realising a third miscarriage will devastate Katherine, Robert agrees to secretly adopt another child - a boy - born and orphaned that very day. At first little Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) and his parents seem to live a charmed life. But when strange and terrible things begin to happen in Damien's presence his mother is first afraid for him, and then afraid of him. Hounded first by a fanatical priest (Pete Postlethwaite) and, later, a nosy press photographer (David Thewlis), Robert eventually comes to realise the awful truth about his adopted son's real father.


As remakes go, we have seen far worse offences in the last few years than this competent and unexpectedly effective horror film. Its potency is thanks to a cannily reworked screenplay, solid technical execution and, above all, a superb cast. And while it loses points for lack of originality, it still manages to be more creepy and disturbing than such familiar material ought to be.

What should have been the film's greatest weakness - the mundane familiarity of the whole "devil boy" scenario - is turned into one of its strengths. Updating his own 1976 screenplay, veteran screenwriter David Seltzer has resisted the temptation to "sex up" the original story with extra gore or post-modern trickery. Instead he has carefully massaged the material, making clever use of current affairs and changes in society, to produce a screenplay that has the feel of a classic '70s horror, but the attitude of a more modern film.

The film is also well executed by journeyman director John Moore and his crew. Many of the artisans, including Moore and cinematographer Jonathan Sele, are veterans of advertising and music video production. This proves to be a mixed blessing. Many of the critical scenes are very well handled and visually striking - showing a well trained knack for compressing meaning into 30 second or two minute bites - but overall the film suffers from a lack of visual consistency. The smaller connecting scenes, in particular, are often overdressed and overzealously lit, which distracts from the film's delicately balanced atmousphere.

Still, Moore deserves credit for his sure-handed direction of the cast, however much of a pleasure they must have been to work with. Both Schreiber and Stiles excel at their roles, bringing the kind of depth and restraint rarely seen in genre films. The supporting cast are equally good. Whether gloriously hamming it up like Pete Postlethwaite, or bringing understated intensity to their roles like David Thewlis, there's not one truly bad performance in the film. Mia Farrow, in particular, is wickedly delightful as the evil nanny and single-handedly adds a whole other dimension of creepiness to the proceedings. The same can be said of the well-chosen little boy, though he doesn't act so much as exist.

But, at heart, this is still a copy of a pulpy '70s horror, and it will never have the same resonance as it did 30 years ago when The Exorcist was still fresh in audiences' minds. It also has a healthy share of cheap scares and unintentionally hilarious hokum - not exactly hallmarks of a classic. Perhaps its greatest trick will be in surviving the dopey over-marketing (release date 06/06/06? give us a break!). To sell The Omen 666 as the next great horror classic is to set people up for disappointment. The world is hungry enough for a half-decent horror film to enjoy this modest treat - there's no need to punt it as Gone With the Wind 2.

- Alistair Fairweather

Hollywood attempts to resurrect yet another iconic horror film, and actually does a fairly good job, for once. Now if only they wouldn't try to convince us that the picture is the scariest movie ever made, we might be able to enjoy it.

Diane 2006/06/09 8:43 AM
The Omen I don't like scary stuff
666 2006/06/09 12:49 PM
Bill Dube 2006/06/09 1:25 PM
OMEN REVIEW Not quite what I anticipated. But I guess that normal after having watched all five previous series. I found the acting from Damien's mother not convincing at all. I would the rating a 2 out of 10
charmaine 2006/06/09 1:57 PM
the omen 666 i enjoyed it i thought it has a good story line but it should have been scary
Christ's Badger 2006/06/09 7:03 PM
Omen 666 AntiChrist I know Jesus Christ is our Saviour and even though people make movies like this it is still known that every knee will bow and every voice confess that Christ Jesus is KING and LORD and even your saviour The lion, the witch, and the Wardrobe. CS Lewis.
GAIL 2006/06/09 10:45 PM
Tanya Britz 2006/06/11 2:29 PM
666 - how odd It seems that the De Vinci code has awoken several new / old theories on faith, religion and non religion. it is amazing that at certain times of the "human astrology"always occure within the natural time frames they are expected. Amazing! 666 and De Vinci code
Sean 2006/06/16 9:50 PM
Best Thriller/Horror Ever I've seen many horror movies out there that have tried to scare you but they do an extremely un-professional job, the Omen is an exception. The quality of the film is brilliant and there are many clever parts to it. It's a must see. Omen 666
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