Satanic Memory Lane

The remake of 'The Omen' stays amazingly faithful to the original

Going into the remake of The Omen, my memories of the 1976 original were a little hazy. It was all the rage when I was in junior high school (the kids who had HBO or Showtime would come to class bragging about having seen it). I guess I first saw it when I was 12 or something. Thought it was cool when that dude got his head cut off by a sheet of glass.

As I watched the remake, memories of the original came back to me, because this is pretty much the exact same movie. So if you are some sort of Omen fanatic, wearing Damien underwear and fondling your original Omen poster, this one might strike you as unnecessary. However, if you have only vague recollections of the original, this film's a pretty cool walk down satanic memory lane.

Replacing Gregory Peck and Lee Remick are Liev Schreiber and (unfortunately) Julia Stiles as Robert and Katherine Thorn. While Schreiber is up to the challenge, I just can't buy Stiles as a mom, or anything other than a classical dancer looking for street cred via hip-hop moves, for that matter.

When Katherine loses her child at birth, some priests hanging around the maternity ward have a solution: do the old switcheroo with another baby without the mother knowing. Because Robert has major honesty issues (he is a high-ranking government official), and he doesn't care to share awful news with his wife, he agrees to the baby switch, unaware that the kid he'll be taking home is the Antichrist. You hear that, people? Don't be switching your babies at the hospital. You could become responsible for kicking off Armageddon, thus making stuff like baptism and communion ceremonies extremely uncomfortable for the relatives.

Little Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick ... an awfully cheery name for a child playing the spawn of Satan) is a normal kid, excepting for those "I'm going to kill you in the name of his satanic majesty!" glares he occasionally flashes. When nannies start hanging themselves at his birthday party, and evil dogs show up in his bedroom without being invited, Robert starts to realize deceiving his wife about the kid wasn't such a good idea. Davey-Fitzpatrick is OK in the role, but he's no Harvey Stephens (the original Damien still takes the cake for creepy children).

Stiles is all wrong in the role of Katherine Thorn. She used to tackle Shakespeare quite efficiently with films like Hamlet and O, but this time out, her performance is forced. She's not awful, and she does manage a couple of decent scenes, but a more mature actress would've been preferred. Schreiber is coolness, sufficiently filling the shoes of Peck.

David Thewlis, who has been rather tiresome of late in films such as Basic Instinct 2, does good with the photographer role once occupied by David Warner. Pete Postlethwaite is decent as the ill-fated priest who witnessed Damien's birth from the womb of a jackal (he, quite appropriately, found this distressing). Best of all is Mia Farrow, Rosemary herself, as the evil nanny who doesn't feel all that hot about Damien's parents taking him to church on Sunday. When Farrow's nanny has had enough, and gets down with the violence on Robert, it's the greatest scene in the film. Farrow is a sweetheart, so watching her try to claw Schreiber's eyes out is a kick.

To reiterate: This is almost a note-for-note remake of the original, down to the final stare Damien makes straight into the camera at film's end. Davey-Fitzpatrick merely smirks, while Stephens did that big-assed creepy grin that suggested the world was totally screwed. In the great Damien smackdown, Stephens remains cooler than Davey-Fitzpatrick, while both are superior to Sam Neill, the stiff adult Damien from The Final Conflict.

The Omen is not showing in any theaters in the area.

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