Directed by John Moore
Distributed by Fox Home Entertainment
Who could forget seeing little Harvey Stephens as Damien Thorn looking over his shoulder and smiling at the camera during his parents’ funeral? It’s probably one of the all-time most memorable shots in our genre’s history. The answer to my question is — nobody. No one could ever forget that scene. Apparently someone thought we needed a reminder, however, and here we are reviewing another completely unnecessary remake of a classic. Truth be told, things aren’t all too bad. This new telling of The Omen has its merits but honestly brings absolutely nothing new to the table.
Usually I open reviews with a quick synopsis of a movie’s storyline. In this instance — Screw that! If you don’t know what The Omen is about by now, then just hit the back button, leave this website, and never return.
Go ahead, run along; the rest of us will wait.
OK, now that the poseurs are gone, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. The question on everyone’s minds and one of the most heated debates in any genre conversation — why so many remakes? Is there a reason for them? Did this particular series benefit from having one?
My take on remakes is this: They serve only one purpose, and that is to get a potential viewer who has never been exposed to the material in question interested enough to seek out the original work that inspired what they just sat through. That’s a very good thing. However, most remakes misfire because of two common pitfalls:
1- They rehash past glories with modern effects for no discernible reason other than to cash in on another film’s success as a means to make a quick buck.
2- They try too hard to one-up their predecessors and end up flat on their remade faces.
Some remakes have been pretty good. Take Dawn of the Dead for instance. I’ll never forget the sickened feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when this was announced. To my shock and awe I and many other fans who were just as distraught over the news loved it. So what made it work? Well, for one thing director Zack Snyder never once tried to out Romero, Romero. He brought a fresh and new take on the material, and as a result what viewers got was just more Dawn of the Dead. That, my friends, is what I like to call a best case scenario.
Unfortunately fans of The Omen did not fare so well. Director John Moore’s retelling is just the same old movie with a fresh coat of paint, fleshed out mostly by actors who cannot hold a candle to the original cast. Don’t get me wrong; in and of themselves everyone turned in a good performance, but the problem is that no one has the slightest bit of chemistry together. Take Schreiber and Stiles for instance. In the original film their parts were played by Lee Remick and Gregory Peck. These actors portrayed their characters with a lot of love and honesty. You felt for them. Their horror was your horror. In this version Liev and Julia are as wooden as the crucifixes strewn about the film’s scenery. When they’re exchanging dialogue, it’s as if they are in separate rooms. They don’t play off of each other in the slightest bit, and they’re the focal point of the whole damned movie. If you cannot believe in their love and their family unit, then all bets are off. David Thewlis does as much as he can with what he has, and there are maybe one or two instances in which he and Schreiber set off a few sparks, but even they soon fizzle.
If I had to pick three heroes of this film, the only ones who make it even slightly interesting, it would have to be Pete Postlethwaite, Mia Farrow, and Damien himself, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick. There’s no denying that they are the scene stealers. Unfortunately they do not receive nearly as much screen time as the rest of the cast. Postlethwaite is perfect as the manic Father Brennan who spends every second trying to get Schreiber to listen and *ahem* heed the omens. Mia Farrow as Mrs. Baylock, Damien’s nanny, plays her part as if she’s sinfully lusting after the child. They have a very uncomfortable and very eerie sexual tension during their onscreen time together. And what of the little devil himself? Fitzpatrick breathes a lot of life into the character of Damien and does it all with his eyes. This kid can turn the evil on and off at the drop of a hat. This was a very impressive debut for the youngster. I’m sure we’ll be seeing him again really soon.
As for the other problems with the film, there are three that stick out immediately, the first being The Omen‘s opening. The film’s only attempt at bringing something new to the series plays much like the same type of cash-in as the theatrical release date of 6/6/06. In it we’re shown some footage of recent disasters like the Tsunami and of course 9/11. This footage is used as a cheap plot device to show the audience that these are the signs of the Anti-Christ’s coming. YAY! Way to capitalize on tragedy to sell a few movie tickets. I’m sure the victims of these unfortunate events really appreciate the exploitation. Thumbs-up, numbskull.
The second is yet another plot device that director John Moore decides to beat into your skull — the usage of the color red. Every time something spooky or bad happens, we see something red on the screen. Photographs showing anomalies? Red lights in the darkroom. Nanny gonna hang herself? Red balloons go floating by. Priest gonna get impaled? Not before a woman wearing red runs by him. This happens every five friggin’ minutes. Red. RED. RED.
Attention John Moore: You overdid it. Instead of being stylish, you’re being annoying. We get the picture. Red = spooky shit. Thanks.
And the third thing wrong? One of the key elements that made the original film work so well is that Damien never knew he was evil. Neither did the audience at first. We got our confirmation during the haircutting scene. But Damien? He wasn’t aware of that fact until Damien: Omen II. Fitzpatrick’s Damien seems to know right away that he’s a malevolent little bastard. He even puts the hoodoo on a security guard just by staring at him. While this makes for a bit of a more sinister child, it also takes away any impact of the revelation that Damien is in fact the son of Satan. Again, I blame this on John Moore.
In the end we have a film that is merely a shell of its former self. Its only saving grace comes in the form of a few worthwhile performances, some pretty bitchin’ make-up effects, awesome sound design (this DVD will give your home theatre quite the workout), and a great score from Marco Beltrami. It’s worth a look, but it will leave you a bit cold.
As for the supplements, we get an even little package. First up there’s a commentary by director John Moore, producer Glenn Williamson, and editor Dan Zimmerman. Man, do these guys sound pleased as fucking punch. Here’s a hint though, when recording a commentary it may be a good idea to have all the participants fashioned with their own mic. Dan Zimmerman sounds as if he were in another room. Maybe John Moore’s inflated ego got in the way.
From there we’re treated to a behind-the-scenes featurette entitled Omenisms. Here you will see John Moore berating his crew and proving himself to be a rather unlikable guy. Seriously, did we really need to see him demean his crew over some faulty track? The Omen is a franchise rife with material. Let’s hear from David Seltzer, writer of the novel. How about the film’s effects? Please anything other than Moore’s incessant bitching will do.
The next featurette is a little diddy called The Abbey Road Sessions, which shows you Beltrami at work composing the score. Not bad, but nothing you haven’t seen seventy-five hundred times already. To spice things up, Beltrami should have taken his entire orchestra and had them walk nude across that famous street. Hey, it worked for The Beatles!
Ever wonder where the evil origin of the number 666 came from? Our last featurette, Revelation 666, explores that and the way that the number of the beast infects our culture. And who is one of the authorities on this matter? Poker king Phil “The Una-Bomber” Laak. *blank stare* Maybe this world is gonna end. *shakes head*
While the featurettes are OK, the main thing of interest for you genre fans will be the unrated extended and alternate scenes. Finally some usage of the color red that I can dig. We get three scenes here: a much more violent impaling, a longer cut of the decapitation, and an alternate ending in which we see Thorn getting the hell shot out of him while trying to stab Damien in the church. These scenes deliver as the blood finally gets to fly to a gratuitous degree. Very cool inclusion, but with the recent trend of unrated editions of films hitting DVD nowadays, one has to wonder why The Omen didn’t get that very same treatment. I blame John Moore.
So there you have it, folks. Another remake come and gone and another (for the most part) missed opportunity dropped into our laps for reasons unbeknownst to us. Wait. That’s not entirely true. The reason is obvious. We needed to see what the cinematic genius John Moore could do with the color red.
See how friggin’ annoying that is?
Commentary by director John Moore, producer Glenn Williamson, and editor Dan Zimmerman
Revelation 666 featurette
Unrated extended sequences
Unrated alternate ending
Abbey Road Sessions featurette
2 1/2 out of 5
Atlantic Rim: Resurrection Review – The #MechToo Movement Has Little Regard for the Ladies
Directed by Jared Cohn
WARNING: This review does contains spoilers! It’s also a review of an Asylum mockbuster of Pacific Rim: Uprising so I’m not really sure it matters. You pretty much know what you’re getting. People inside giant robots punching giant monsters in the face. Sometimes shooting at them. Duh!
It truly is a bold creative decision in this era of #metoo to have the third act of your movie begin with two male characters, neither of whom has been shown piloting a giant robot previously, grounding the two female robot pilots by locking them in a room in order to go do their job for them and kill the giant monsters that have previously defeated the ladies. Oh, sure, there’s some “mechsplaining” as to how these two guys are sidelining the gals for their own well-being, but even then there’s something unintentionally hilarious about these fellas seemingly deciding to not even trust the women to succeed in what is tantamount to a suicide mission.
Not to mention that one of these young ladies has been infected, potentially fatally, by monster venom and hardly anyone seems terribly concerned about this.
But then I am talking about an Asylum production entitled Atlantic Rim: Resurrection about military officers and scientists piloting giant battle bots (that kind of look like 1980’s Tonka robot toys) to fight giant mutant crawdad-like creatures (that look like perfectly acceptable Ultraman foes) along the East Coast of the United States, even though the city being attacked looks suspiciously Californian. In fact, The Asylum website’s own plot synopsis seemingly forgot it was supposed to be set on the Atlantic seaboard and outright states the monsters are destroying Los Angeles. Their website also wrongly lists the film’s release date as February 15, 2017.
Keeping with those high Asylum standards of continuity, Atlantic Rim: Resurrection is The Asylum’s mockbuster sequel of the forthcoming Pacific Rim: Uprising, even though the original Atlantic Rim, released in 2013 to coincide with the original Pacific Rim, was actually distributed in North America under the alternate title Attack from Beneath for reasons I presume were to avoid matters of a litigious nature. Nonetheless, here’s a sequel with a very sequel-y sounding title despite most American viewers probably not knowing the previous film by that title.
And you know what? Absolutely none of that matters.
What matters is that this mockbuster follow-up finally answers one of the great scientific questions of our times: Robonet or Python – which neural operating system is the best for psychically synching Go! Go! Gobots! with their human operators? Or, as I found myself thinking after nearly 20+ minutes of technobabble that is truly more babble than techno, “Are they ever gonna shut up and punch a giant monster? I’m here to see big ugly monsters get face punched by big ugly robots, dammit!”
In the time it takes this sequel to finally get around to its first full-on robot vs. monster battle, the first Atlantic Rim had already seen more monster destruction and chaos, more molten hot robot on monster action, and far more entertaining scenes of a trio of monster-mashing robot pilots hanging out in bars getting plastered. The first had more of everything you would want from an Asylum knock-off of Pacific Rim about insubordinate alcoholics operating giant robots to save the East Coast from gargantuan sea dragons. Despite the main scientist brought in to get the robots and pilots fully synched up looking perpetually hung over, this sequel lacks the “Mighty Drunken Broski Ranger” attitude, the cartoonish delirium, and ham-fisted acting of the original that led me to pen a three-star review.
Not to say there isn’t any fun to be had here; just nothing that entertains quite like watching David Chokachi swaggering through a film like a drunk broski in dire need of an intervention as he and his fellow hard-drinkin’ robot pilots beat a seemingly lost and confused giant monster over the head with huge metal hammers while an unhinged, one-eyed military officer holds his commanding officers at gunpoint demanding they allow him to nuke something, anything. None of the stars of the go-for-broke original returns for this mostly by-the-numbers sequel I almost want to say makes the mistake of being too grounded in reality than its wacko predecessor except it’s hardly realistic.
For a film that devotes so much time to over-explaining the concept, I found myself baffled as to why the pilots still had to manually work gear shifts and push all manner of dashboard buttons to operate robots supposedly powered by their minds. Did my mind sink into the Drift during this endless mind-melding chatter and I missed something clarifying this sticking point?
Anyhow, let’s meet our heroic robot pilots:
- “Hammer” – The black guy. That means he dies first. There’s also another African-American who’ll climb into a robot cockpit for the final battle. He’ll also die. The main Jaeger pilot in Pacific Rim: Uprising is black. Willing to bet he lives. Not woke, Asylum. So not woke.
- “Badger” – Speaking of not woke, the men of the #MechToo movement will come to decide they don’t need no stinkin’ Badger.
- “Bugs” – She’s got a lot of attitude. Claims her nickname is because she “stings like a bee.” She gets stung, alright.
The always dependable Paul Logan makes a brief appearance as a soldier because – why not? Paul Logan always plays a soldier. He isn’t given much of anything to do here, and that’s a shame. Logan already looks like the lovechild of G.I. Joe and He-Man. Why not go for the Transformers trifecta by strapping him into a mech and let him get his Rock’em Sock’em Robot on?
Logan’s primary function is to show only a passing regard for the well-being of his wife and daughter, a tacked on subplot that sees the two women fleeing on foot as kaiju of various sizes rampage in the vicinity. Of course there has to be a family separated, desperately trying to survive and reunite amid the calamity because, of course there is – it’s an Asylum movie!
The resolution to this subpar subplot could not have been any more anticlimactic if dad had just sent an Uber to pick them up from the danger zone, which, honestly, isn’t that far off from what actually happens.
One nifty twist is that a colossal crawdad from aquatic hell spews forth hundreds of little buggers into the streets of East Coast L.A. The characters will refer to these lesser chitinous kaiju as “insects,” “spiders,” and “arachnids” but never “bugs,” presumably to not cause audience confusion with the character who already sports that call sign. They mostly call them “spiders” in spite of the fact that they really don’t look like spiders. More like oversized earwigs. I’m not even sure they had eight legs.
Don’t even ask me to explain what the “Resurrection” in Atlantic Rim: Resurrection means, either. Since this is a mockbuster of Pacific Rim: Uprising, they should have gone with Atlantic Rim: Rising Up since the film begins with giant monsters literally rising up from the sea. Would have made more sense.
On the plus side, any movie where humans using state-of-the-art mind-controlled giant battle bots armed with super science weapons to fight otherworldly giant monsters from the ocean depths yet still has a moment where an injured pilot cracks open a control panel inside his futuristic robot and takes out a plastic blue case labeled “First Aid Kit” that is overstuffed with almost nothing but Band-Aids still earns a merit badge in audacity from me.
Not nearly the Rimjob I was hoping for.
The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life
Written and directed by David Freyne
Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.
Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.
The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.
Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.
Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.
Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.
The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.
The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.
Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed
Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim
Directed by Brian Coyne
Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.
Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.
So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.
I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.
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