Movie Reviews 114 – The Omen (2006)

The OmenI don’t scare easy. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’ve been watching a lot of Horror these last few years (kind of a Born Again Horror fan) and I relish those few instances when a filmmaker can get me to curl up in fright or have goosebumps pepper my flesh. But if there is one surefire way to stoke the flames of fright in me it is to make me face the most vile category of Horror film I know. I’m not talking about snuff films or psychopathic torture movies. I’m talking about something much worse: the dreaded horror movie remake!

The dusty DVD cheapy bins are littered with mostly failed, but sometimes decent, big name remakes that have been propelled onto the populace; Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Thing, Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Piranha, I Spit on your Grave. The list goes on and on and I’m not even going to bring up the multitude of Hollywood remakes of foreign films which is a discussion onto itself.

The reasons why they are even made in the first place is, one the one hand, easy to understand. The industry bean counters and marketeers figure that if a certain movie was a big hit years ago, surely the name recognition alone would bring in a certain percentage of that fan base to put down a few dollars to see a new version. They don’t even strive for the movie to be as good as, let alone better than, the original version, but if they have done the math correctly they figure that they can still make a profitable movie. If all goes as planned most of the money coming in from the all important first week audience upon release is enough to offset the costs of making the movie and locking in their profits for the rest of the run and later media sales. Any bad reviews or negative word-of-mouth knocking it out of contention after those critical first few days are largely inconsequential. If the movie is decent or even slightly good and manages to make even more money, that’s just icing on the cake. But it is a precarious balancing act at best. The first thing that comes to mind when I hear about another remake coming down the pike is whether the producers even intended to make a decent movie at all, or was it just a cash grab effort from the get-go.

So it was with understandable trepidation that I finally capitulated to watching this remake of the the 1976 classic The Omen. When I bought the box set with the original quadrilogy of movies (The Omen, Damien: Omen II, Omen III: The Final Conflict, and Omen IV: The Awakening) it was to watch the original run, and the fact that the remake was included barely raised my eyebrows. After watching those movies in succession, I refrained from watching the remake. Somehow, watching this in the same breath as the others was just not right. It needed and time and space of it’s own to be judged on it’s own merits.

The casting (recasting?) is interesting enough. Liev Schreiber (Sabretooth in the X-Men series) takes on the role of Robert Thorn and Julia Stiles (Lumen from season 5 of Dexter) is his wife Katherine while David Thewlis plays the unfortunate photographer Jennings who not only learns of the burden faced by mankind as a whole, but has his own preordained death to deal with. Mia Farrow plays the child’s protector and the kid playing Damien is, well just another kid.

As per the original, Thorn is led to believe that his son died in childbirth and, unknown to his wife, accepts another baby boy, Damien, from a priest. As Damien grows up, people that hinder or are a threat to his ascension as the anti-Christ all die, but only after their deaths are foretold in photographic anomalies accidentally captured on film by Jennings. In the end, Robert is faced with the ultimate decision to kill his own son lest the child grow up as a minion of Satan. Other memorable scenes including the demise of the babysitter, the search for the original priest, the graveyard doberman guardians, and the  acquisition of the sanctified daggers are all here, hardly touched. I’ve got to admit that one aspect where the remake succeeded in matching, perhaps even surpassing, the original was in the manner in which Jennings meets his maker. The character’s demise was legendary in the original movie and I was curious as to how they would handle it here. The Rube-Goldberg series of events and conditions that lead to his death was inspirational.  I was expecting a number of changes to the overall plot and story, but it was pretty damn faithful to the original. This is another reason I question remakes. If you haven’t got anything to add, the point of having a remake (aside from the monetary gain I already mentioned) is moot.

All this to say that it is a faithful remake that retains the essence of the original and, as such, is a good movie. They did not ‘mess it up’ but they did not make an original movie either. So unless you’ve never seen the original you’re not going to get much out of this one either other than the twist on Jenning’s death.

For what it’s worth and if you can trust the IMDB financials for the movie, it doubled up the initial investment. Not great numbers by movie industry stands, but not a failure either so I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of another Omen movie in the near future.

Now if I can only muster up the guts to watch Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake. Still not ready for that.

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