a critiQal film review The Omen (2006)

Plot: Damien (Davey-Fitzpatrick) is the son of an American diplomat (Schreiber) and his wife (Stiles). Damien's family is unaware he is destined to become the Anti-Christ – until shattering events reveal the terrifying truth.

999 words (Est. Reading Time 4m 59s)
  • ...a far cry from the classic 1976 film.

Going into week 6 of our Summer At The Movies ’06, there was only one film we were both dying to see: the new Disney/Pixar film, Cars (2006).

But, upon arriving at the movie theater, we found out that was apparently #1 on everyone’s else list as well – it was sold out. Deciding to wait until next week to see Cars (2006), we debated on which other film we were going to see this weekend. Heather was leaning toward the new Jennifer Aniston / Vince Vaughn romantic comedy The Break-Up, while I was pushing remake The Omen.

Since Heather likes horror films more than I usually like romantic comedies, she agreed to check out The Omen, and in we went. So, would my second choice be worth it, or should I have given in to Heather’s second choice and taken my chances with The Break-Up instead?

At first glance, Liev Schrieber and Julia Stiles seem an odd choice as a couple in The Omen. As the film progresses, this first impression doesn’t change much, unfortunately. While both Liev and Julia do a better job in the film than anything most viewers have seem them in before, the viewer will not be able to shake the feeling they are somewhat mismatched.

While Julia seems full of emotion (crying or carrying on in almost every scene), Liev seems more robotic, and when he does let the tears flow, it seems more as if he’s trying not to throw up than really hurting – especially with his annoying habit of gulping before letting the tears come – making the viewer wonder if the tears may be caused by some sort of nasty-tasting beverage he’s just swallowed. With the contrast of the robot vs. the over-emotional, the viewer never really connects with this couple, distancing them from the movie right from the start.

But what is The Omen without Damien? This time around, round-faced Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick gets the role – and takes it absolutely nowhere. His big eyes seem to be the focus of most of the film, supposedly conveying evil with every look – unfortunately, he comes off more as a spoiled little rich kid rather than the son of the Devil. While he tries, he just isn’t able to conjure up the looks of pure evil that made the original film such a classic – but it’s not for lack of trying. With every scene, the viewer is able to see him struggling to look evil – and failing. Instead, the viewer will get the distinct impression he’s pouting. Ooh, scary!

With the failure of the main family of The Omen to enthrall the audience, the task of engrossing the viewers is left up to the supporting cast, who do their best to steal the show. Whether it’s Priest Pete Postlethwaite, evil nanny Mia Farrow or photographer David Thewlis, they all do wonderful jobs involving the audience, and easily steal the show.

Pete Posthelwaite, with his gravelly voice, seems to be perfectly cast as a priest warning of Armageddon, and the viewer will easily be able to see that he truly believes what he’s saying. Mia Farrow’s nanny is easily more evil than Damien. She manages to hide it behind a prim and proper facade at first, but as the film progresses, the other side of her personality begins to show itself, and she steps up to deliver the scariest moments in the film. David Thewlis, the photographer whose pictures reveal how people are going to die, also steps up to the plate, delivering a performance that will keep the viewer’s attention riveted each time he’s on screen.

The failure of Liev, Julia and Seamus to captivate the viewer isn’t the only drawback to this new Omen, but this drawback doesn’t come from the cast, it’s all director John Moore’s fault. The cameraman on the film seems to be overcome occasionally with what only can be described as epileptic fits, as the camera jerks around the screen during one of the major scenes of the film, making the action hard to follow. Apparently, hard-to-follow scenes translates into horror for this director – unfortunately the viewer will find it more annoying than anything else.

John Moore also seems to think that surprising the audience with quick deaths is what is going to scare them. Sure, they may jump, but more from surprise than anything else. And to most people, surprise does not equal horror. Most horror films try to build up the tension throughout the film, putting the viewer on edge so when the surprise comes they shoot out of their seat shaking.

With The Omen, John Moore skips the whole tension-building thing, instead presenting a rather dull movie with a few surprises. While the surprises will still cause the viewer to jump occasionally, these surprises seem to be more of a way of making sure the viewer hasn’t drifted off to sleep.

Haven’t filmmakers learned anything from the remake Psycho (which also starred Liev Schrieber) a few years ago? Instead of simply remaking a film, redo it, and present the viewers with an entirely new vision on a classic story.

While The Omen does change superficially (the events leading up to Damien’s birth have been updated to include the World Trade Center disaster), the viewer will find themselves making comparisons to the original throughout most of the film – with disastrous results for the remake.

Despite it’s rather prophetic release date of 6/6/06, The Omen is a far cry from the classic 1976 film, as the errors by Liev, Damien and Julia – not to mention a complete lack of tension for most of the film and some blurred, jerky camera shots – far outweigh any positives the almost heroic efforts of the supporting cast bring to the film.

If Armageddon was actually on it’s way, I doubt this film would have gotten made – after all, I’m sure the devil is as interested as the next demon in frightening people, not boring them.

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