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THE OMEN

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Mia Farrow, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Gambon
Director:  John Moore
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  110 Minutes
Release Date:  October 17, 2006

“Did I scare you, mommy?”

Film **1/2

Being a long time horror fan, I’ve gotten more and more discouraged by the current trend of remaking horror classics.  I usually end up asking myself why anyone would do such a thing.  At least with The Omen, I don’t have to ask.  They simply couldn’t pass up the chance to release a remake on 6/6/06.

But apart from that bit of devilish marketing, why else?  This film, directed by John Moore, is such a faithful retelling of the Richard Donner version that one of these two movies isn’t necessary.  If you’ve seen the original, there isn’t a surprise in store for you here.  You’ll have every moment pre-charted out in your mind, and instead of watching with fear and anticipation, you’ll simply be checking them off mentally as they come up.

Not to say that The Omen doesn’t have good aspects…it’s just the more familiar you are with the first movie, the less you’ll need this one.  It’s the same story about the birth of the antichrist, adopted by unsuspecting parents, the strange signs, the grisly deaths, the wild eyed priests spewing warnings, and a trek around the globe to unravel the mystery.  One interesting touch is the re-writing of the Book of Revelation to make it seem like 9/11, the tsunami and Katrina were signs of the Apocalypse…Biblical scholars beware.

Perhaps I should be grateful that Moore and company didn’t proceed with Michael Bay-style braggadocio in trying to make a movie better than the original, nor did they go forth with Gus van Sant type arrogance in trying to craft a shot by shot remake.  This isn’t a re-imagining of the story…it’s akin to a simple re-telling with a few embellishments to try and liven it up.

Liev Schreiber has an old school Hollywood voice that he’s used to conjure up images of Orson Welles and now Gregory Peck.  He brings a dignified solemnity to the proceedings.  Julia Stiles seems a bit lost all the way through.  I don’t know why, but I just never bought her in the role.  The three British stars, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Gambon and David Thewlis, seem to be having the most fun as they chew the scenery around their American cohorts.  Best of all is Mia Farrow recreating the role of the sinister nanny.  She DOES have some experience with spawn of Satan children, after all.

My girlfriend has never seen the original, and she’s keen to see this one…it’ll be interesting to see how someone with no fore knowledge reacts.  I can’t speak for them, just for myself.  The Omen is decent, but unnecessary.

BONUS TRIVIA:  Is ‘Damien’ really such an evil name?  It’s actually the name of a noted Catholic Saint!

Video ****

Fox delivers a superb anamorphic transfer with this disc.  There are many cool looking scenes with little or no light, yet the detail level remains high and the images impressively sharp throughout.  Colors are vivid and natural looking and the print itself is quite clean.

Audio ****

The 5.1 audio boasts terrific dynamic range, a nice musical score, clear dialogue and plenty of ambient effects for your subwoofer and rear channels.  There are a few rainstorm sequences that will really make your home theatre come alive.

Features ***

The disc contains a solid commentary track with John Moore and his producers.  There are also two extended scenes and an alternate ending, a making-of documentary, a look at the scoring sessions at Abbey Road Studios, and a documentary on Revelation and 666, plus some trailers.  The first theatrical trailer is an all time winner in my book.

Summary:

Releasing an Omen movie on 6/6/06 was just too juicy to pass up, I suppose.  I’m guessing that means we won’t have another remake for a hundred years.  I assume I’ll have retired by then, so let me leave a word of advice today for Hollywood:  ‘new’ and ‘improved’ rarely go together in the remake business.

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