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E.C. McMullen Jr.
Head Production Designer
JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Special Effects Make-Up
A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
Saw THE OMEN last night. I think I threw up in my mouth. My GAWD it was freaking awful.
The original THE OMEN, released in 1976, is considered in some circles a modern classic. Personally, I enjoy the film but find it dated. Some movies just don’t play well over time.
Still, did we really need a remake? And worse, who did Hollywood, or specifically director John Moore hope would fill the lofty shoes of superstar Gregory Peck?
In this scene-by-scene remake of the original, THE OMEN remake offers nothing new. In a promising opening sequence at the Vatican's Observatory, clergy congregate to commiserate over the arrival of Armageddon, where Prophecy breeds terror in the form of modern destruction, replete with images of 911, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and last years’ tsunami aftermath filling the screen, inferring Armageddon may be at hand at this very moment. And that the birth of the antichrist is the culmination of these events.
But that was the movie's crowning original achievement and it all went downhill from there. Liev Schreiber (SCREAM [all], PHANTOMS, SPHERE, THE SUM OF ALL FEARS, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE ) as Robert Thorn and Julia Stiles (WICKED, THE BOURNE IDENTITY, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY) as his wife Katherine phoned in their performances, which is a shame because they're talented actors. But watching their interplay was about as exciting and convincing as watching Richard Gere and Jodie Foster kissing in Sommersby. Schreiber and Stiles would have more convincingly played brother and sister.
Moore seemed to be trying to create a more artsy horror film, and the cinematography was at times stunning. But that alone can't save this film. Certain small additions to the film dragged the pace. For example, on their way to visit the priest who'd handled Damien's adoption, Thorn and Jennings the photographer, played by David Thewlis (THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN), one of the only interesting characters in this mess, are ferried across what could easily have been the River Styx, complete with hooded gondolier paddling them along. Nothing but wasted screen time that took away from the immediacy of the film and gave it an ill-fitting mythological feel.
The cemetery scene, a classic in the original film, is plodding and dull and again drags on too long. In Moore's attempt to set the mood too many times, he only succeeded in creating dull atmosphere. One point I've never seen addressed by fans and critics is Thorn's too-eager belief that his son is the antichrist. How is he convinced? By digging up the graves of the jackal and a dead baby because he's told the jackal is his son's real mother.
So who's convinced him his son is the antichrist? A loose-cannon priest who never produces proof or offers a truly compelling argument. I never bought it in the original, and I don't buy it here. Thorn, no matter who's playing him, seems way too eager to believe his son is evil incarnate who needs to be stopped. Evil incarnate in the form of a four-year-old child? What ever happened to parental concern? Hell, in THE EXORCIST, Regan's (Linda Blair) bed was practically bouncing around the room and her mother still dragged her to doctor after doctor, including psychiatrists, knowing full well her daughter was more likely a nutcase and not possessed by Satan. But what does Thorn do? Believe this is some elaborate setup, a plot to drive him crazy? A sick April Fool's joke? Nope. He easily buys into the "Oh shit . . . my son's the devil" hype of the hour and determines that not only does Damien need to die, Thorn needs to be the one to commit the murder. But that task was never a condition set forth by anyone. Ya'd think the kid's father would have passed that particular nasty job on to someone else.
Even the dream sequences are flat. And wait—dream sequences? But why? Because there is so little character development that the film relies on that old chestnut, "Let's add some creepy dream sequences to show how scared the characters are." Well, true character development handles this in a much better way. I wish screenwriter David Seltzer (OMEN IV) had tried that, instead of rehashing tired old tricks.
Mia Farrow (ROSEMARY'S BABY) as Mrs. Baylock was, I thought, inspired casting. However, even Farrow couldn't salvage this role. The part was originally played by Billie Whitelaw, who brought a dark and thoroughly creepy element to the character. Farrow came across as a demented Mary Poppins as Baylock: creepy but not in the horror movie way. More in the "Have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior?" way. Another shame.
The scene where Baylock goes to the hospital to kill Katherine Thorn drags on too long, and instead of building suspense manages to increase boredom. Where in the original you have a moment of dread before Remick is tossed out the hospital window, here you pretty much roll your eyes at the silly, easy way Baylock does her in. So much for Baylock's almost preternatural strength and unending devotion for the Hellspawn. She even leaves Damien alone in the hospital corridor to play head games with the armed guard stationed outside the door.
And introducing Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick as Damien Thorn . . . Ah well. At least, unlike Harvey Stephens - the original Damien, who could never get work again because he was considered too creepy - Davey-Fitzpatrick should have no trouble getting work. Not that the kid was anything outstanding. He just wasn't creepy at all. Bratty, yeah. Son of Satan? Nope.
I implore you, save your money.
One negative Shriek Girl.