A review of “The Omen” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for extreme bloodshed and violence

Run Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

 

 

I’m a huge fan of the original “Omen” which debuted thirty years ago and imprinted itself on my psyche with viscous tenacity.

Director John Moore has re-fashioned the 1976 horror classic for a new generation, creating a near shot-for-shot remake that retains spine-chilling impact while utilizing the benefits of modern technology.

Showtime at the Vatican: a dour clergyman delivers a doom-and-gloom prediction a la a flashy slideshow of contemporary disasters including the falling towers of 9/11, the Thailand tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Satan’s child is on his way so everyone duck and cover.  

Nearby in Rome rising diplomatic star Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) suffers the painful news that his son has died in childbirth. Salvation arrives in the form of an obsequious priest who insists that another child has been born that night who has lost his mother. Why not replace one infant with the other and keep the little woman happy?

Anxious to spare wife Kate (Julia Stiles) the gory details Robert agrees to the deception and the child is christened Damien. Onward and upward as Robert rises to the lofty ranks of American Ambassador to England. All is well until Damien’s (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) troubled nanny throws herself off a balcony in the name of her tiny charge.

Which sets off a chain of unsettling events and an impending sense of doom as both Kate and Robert reluctantly acknowledge that their child is the Antichrist and a stout course of Ritalin isn’t going to help. Add to their unease a fawning nanny substitute (Mia Farrow) who seems perversely attached to the little monster and a dogged photographer (David Thewlis) tracking the devil’s scent and you’ve got yourself a tidy little mystery.

“Omen” is a faithful re-creation slightly altered to appease a modern audience’s thirst for well-crafted gore. The scares are genuine – twitchy jumps, horrific deaths, the ubiquitous frozen graveyard -- and a handful of twisted dream sequences ratchet up the terror. Coincidence and implausibility are major players (hey, it’s a horror film).

Schreiber commands respect; both he and Stiles play it cool, letting their shock and revulsion unfold gradually. Farrow’s nanny-from-hell is pure campy delight. Fitzpatrick tosses out pre-school death glares with pouty alacrity, not a subtle bone in his little thespian body.

This “Omen” is worth the second effort.