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Omen, The (DVD)

The Omen DVD (click for larger image)Starring Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, David Thewlis, Mia Farrow, Michael Gambon, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Pete Postlethwaite

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.

*whistles*

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.

The Omen DVD (click for larger image)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.

The Omen DVD (click for larger image)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?

Special Features
Commentary by director John Moore, producer Glenn Williamson, and editor Dan Zimmerman
Revelation 666 featurette
Unrated extended sequences
Unrated alternate ending
Omenisms featurette
Abbey Road Sessions featurette
Trailers

2 1/2 out of 5

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.