October 24, 2006
The Omen (2006) is the latest in a long line of 1970s horror films that did not need to be remade but is anyway by an unimaginative major Hollywood studio with a contemporary spin. Priests in the Vatican arrange a powwow with the Pope to inform him that disasters like 9/11, the Space Shuttle blowing up, the tsunami that wreaked havoc in Southeast Asia and others are signs of an impending apocalypse as described in the Bible. At the same time, in Rome, the deputy to the United States ambassador Robert Thorn (Schreiber) secretly adopts a son when his wife Katherine (Stiles) loses hers during childbirth.
Of course, he doesn’t tell her about the switcheroo and they become one big happy family. For a few years, everything seems fine. Robert gets promoted and this sends them to England. Before you can say demonic possession, his boss is blown up in an “accident,” bumping Robert up to ambassador to England. Pretty soon, an intense priest (a twitchy Postlethwaite) approaches the skeptical Robert warning him that his son Damien (Davey-Fitzpatrick) is, yep, you guessed it, the antichrist.
This new film deviates little from the original and so we have the nanny who hangs herself at Damien’s birthday party except that she doesn’t go smashing through a window, she just thuds against a wall. David Thewlis plays the David Warner role (a great bit of casting, by the way) as the omnipresent photographer. Another inspired bit of casting is Mia Farrow as the evil nanny who schools Damien in the dark arts. Of course, she is meant to evoke Rosemary’s Baby (1968) but instead you start thinking about how much better that movie is than this one.
Sadly, there is no chemistry between Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles. Normally, both are excellent actors but it feels like they’re just phoning it in with listless line readings. Stiles, in particular, doesn’t even sound like she’s involved in the role. Instead of bothering to care about their disintegrating relationship, I found myself admiring the pillows on the Thorn’s living room sofa. As good as an actor as Schreiber is, he doesn’t have the gravitas of Gregory Peck or the machismo to contrast his intellectual job. However, the chemistry between Schreiber and Thewlis is quite good. Their scenes where they go back to Italy and trace Damien’s inception are well-played with fascinating exposition, especially when a talented actor like Thewlis is saying it.
Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick is terribly miscast as a strictly blandy McPlain wrap Damien. There is no menace behind his eyes, like with the original child (played so well by Harvey Stephens) – he’s too cute and cuddly. And his “menacing” expression looks like he’s trying too hard to concentrate and not channeling supposed satanic powers. Not even mood lighting makes him look evil. Director John Moore telegraphs the scares and fails to establish any kind of creepy atmosphere with lackluster editing.
The problem with this remake (one of the many) is that the original has such iconic imagery that any remake that deviates too far is bound to disappoint and if it is too slavishly faithful it is bound to disappoint – either way the filmmakers of this new one are screwed. This film doesn’t do anything innovative in-between the inevitable set pieces from the original. The show-stopping set pieces are duly recreated with slight variations but lack any pizzazz or spark because it’s already been done better in the original. Where it flitted with ambiguity (is Damien really the antichrist or is his father insane?), the new version makes it painfully obvious that Damien is pure evil. Where you really wondered if Peck’s character was losing his mind, there is no question that Schreiber knows what he’s doing. And therein lies the problem with this new version. All of the layers have been stripped away to reveal a simplistic tale of good vs. evil.
There is an audio commentary by director John Moore, producer Glenn Williamson and editor Dan Zimmerman. They talk about the “Vatican-ness” of the Prague locations. Moore tells an anecdote about screening dailies of the scene where Robert learns that his baby has died and how there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. There is a self-congratulatory air to this track as these men are inexplicably proud of this mess. Moore is convinced that there is genuine chemistry between Schreiber and Stiles (are they watching the same movie?) and tell plenty of filming anecdotes in between complimenting each other.
“Omenisms” attempts to show the making of the movie, warts and all. It starts with weird footage of Moore recounting a story about a day’s worth of film negatives being ruined and the desire to exact physical revenge on those responsible. He and his crew were under considerable pressure while filming as a release date had already been set and so they had a short shooting schedule. Schreiber admits to initially not being thrilled with doing a remake. Moore shows bravado that is, at times, embarrassing, and this is quite revealing.
“Abbey Road Sessions” takes a look at the recording of the film’s score composed by Marco Beltrami. There is footage of the composer in action mixed with on the set footage.
“Revelation 666” examines the meaning behind the number 666 and its spookiness with such laughable anecdotes like a poker player who recounts a story of a buddy with a hand of three 6s (ooh, scary!) and a man born with three 6s in his birthdate. The extra tries to explain the number’s significance with historians, religious figures and a Satan worshipper all offering their two cents.
Also included are two extended scenes that depict Postlethwaite’s impaling and Thewlis’ decapitation in slightly more graphic detail that runs a few seconds longer, big deal. There is an alternate ending that graphically depicts Robert’s demise which actually would have worked better.
Finally, there is a teaser and two theatrical trailers.