***1/2 (out of 5)
June 6, 2006
Liev Schreiber as ROBERT THORN
Julia Stiles as KATHERINE THORN
Pete Postlethwaite as FATHER BRENNAN
Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick as DAMIAN
Mia Farrow as MRS. BAYLOCK
David Thewlis as KEITH JENNINGS
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: John Moore
BY KEVIN CARR
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I have to admit that I have been among the many vocal critics of unnecessary remakes. For example, when Gus Van Sant took it upon his egomaniacal self to remake “Psycho” from the original shooting script, I couldn’t stop complaining about it. What he did to an untouchable classic was unforgivable.
Even remakes of older films that aren’t exactly perfect classics – like “The Amityville Horror” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” – haven’t been entirely necessary. (Although the studios’ box office receipts say otherwise, from a strictly financial angle.) I never thought that “Amityville” was treading upon anything perfect because the original wasn’t that great to begin with.
In some ways, “The Omen” falls between “Psycho” and “The Amityville Horror.” The original film with Gregory Peck had an undeniable impact on filmmaking and the horror genre. It came at the end of a string of films dealing with supernatural and satanic overtones. Of the three big films of the era – “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist” and “The Omen,” Damian’s story was right in the middle.
While I liked the original film, it wasn’t pure like Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” So, after seeing the trailers, I was somewhat excited to see it. I thought that after thirty years, there was definitely a chance to do some pretty cool things with the movie. And, I couldn’t deny the marketing brilliance of opening the film on 6/6/06.
My only worry was that the filmmakers would try to make things bigger and better with this film. That always seems to be the case with remakes, doesn’t it? They want to take a small action shot and make it a fifteen minute sequence. Or they want to add explosions and flipping cars whenever there’s a chance.
For the most part, this new version of “The Omen” avoids that. There is one scene early in the film as the prophecy is set in motion that threatens to go overboard. Not surprisingly, it involves a huge explosion and a car. However, as the film starts to lay itself down, the cinematic decisions are relatively understated for this day and age.
The biggest strength of “The Omen” is its casting. It’s odd that the two leads – Liev Schreiber as Robert Thorn and Julia Stiles as Katherine Thorn – have never been on the top of my favorite lists. In fact, I find both of them particularly annoying. However, they both hold their own and actually won me over in this film. Stiles in particular has a greater skill of playing the housewife in her late twenties than playing the high school or college sweetheart.
Even stronger performances come from the supporting cast. Pete Postlethwaite is awesome as the freaky priest who tries to warn the Thornes that they are raising the son of the devil. Likewise, David Thewlis takes over the role of the investigative reporter played by David Warner in the original film. Of course, the greatest casting moment in this film is Mia Farrow as Damian’s nanny. I kept expecting her nanny interview to mention that she once raised the son of the devil in the 1960s back in New York.
This new version of “The Omen” is strikingly similar to the original film. It uses David Seltzer’s original script, and the major plot points and scenes are almost set up shot-by-shot the same way. However, with advances in cinematic techniques, this movie is able to do things that weren’t attempted in the original. There are clever uses of color to depict danger and subtle production design features (including Damian’s wallpaper that resembles a series of 6’s).
It’s not a perfect rendition. The film goes a little heavy on dream sequences and psychic flashes, which always seem to be a crutch for an otherwise well made film. However, these moments at least supplied some fodder for the trailer.
Overall, “The Omen” is a slick piece that improves upon the original. And the kid is creepy as hell, too.