Saturday, 19 September 2020
The Omen
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Monday, 12 June 2006 20:53

Why are kids so darned creepy? All they have to do is look at you with those big soulless eyes and it sends shivers up your spine. Maybe it’s because those eyes have a hint of mockery in them… a look that says; “I know something you don’t know”. And don’t get me started about creepy singing kids. I still remember a ghost story from my childhood in which visitors to a haunted school would hear distant echoes of children chanting “Ring-Around-the-Rosie”. Luckily The Omen’s creepy kid doesn’t sing, but he definitely knows something that his unsuspecting parents don’t.

The Omen is a remake, not a continuation, of the classic 1976 horror film of the same name. A brilliant marketing strategy turns this into the perfect year to do a remake, releasing the film on June 6, 2006; in other words 666, the mark of the Beast. Open to interpretation, the Book of Revelation associates the number 666 with the apocalypse and the coming of Satan to earth. Apparently his followers will carry the Mark of the Beast, possibly referring to the infamous number. There are plenty of conspiracy theories out there that UPC codes, bankcards or identification chips are the realization of this prophecy.

The story of The Omen begins in Vatican City where an unusual comet has been spotted in the night sky. The comet is the birth announcement of the Antichrist. Meanwhile at a hospital in Rome an American Diplomat has been told that his child died during birth, but his wife has not been told. How very convenient that another baby born that day lost his mother and needs a home. Robert Thorn is urged to swap babies and not tell his wife. The years pass and as little Damien grows older it becomes apparent that he isn’t like the other children. Strange things happen when he is around. Animals, his friends, and even his mother are afraid of him. At his birthday party the nanny calls out to him and then hangs herself from the roof as a tribute. When a replacement nanny is found it becomes clear that Damien doesn’t need his mommy and daddy anymore. As an inside joke, Mrs. Baylock is played by Mia Farrow, mother to another Antichrist in Rosemary’s Baby!

Attempting to fill the shoes of Gregory Peck and Lee Remick are Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles. I’ve always found Schreiber to be an underused actor who usually has small supporting roles. Here he takes the lead with authority and more emotional depth than I would have expected. When I first heard about the casting of Julia Stiles I really didn’t think she was the right choice. Having only seen her in teen romances, it was hard to picture her in such a grown up role. I still don’t know if she was the best choice, but I came away much more impressed with her than before. The roles of both parents would be challenging since they go from loving their son to wanting him dead.

So why another horror remake? In my opinion older horror movies had everything going for them including some groundbreaking visuals. Just look at The Exorcist, Alien, or The Thing. But most importantly they had great stories, which is something Hollywood just doesn’t seem to have the time for lately. These days it seems moviemakers are more concerned with cheap CG effects than with a good script. The Changeling, 1963’s The Haunting and The Shining are all prime examples of creepy movies with great stories. I recommend renting them as I think they are all available on DVD.

In a smart move director John Moore decided to let The Omen breath without smothering it in modern special effects. The resulting film looks good and allows the story speak for itself. Casting great British actors like David Thewlis, Michael Gambon and Peter Postlethwaite doesn’t hurt either.

The Omen is a more enjoyable remake than I expected. I give it 6 out of 10.