Gratuitous evil plus creepy kid equals scary fun.
Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) is serving as a staff member under the US ambassador to Italy when his wife, Katherine (Julia Stiles), is told she lost her baby in childbirth. A priest in the maternity ward offers Robert hope: a child was born to a mother who died in childbirth with no family to care for it. After learning that Katherine can no longer have children of her own, Robert takes the child in place of his own and lies to his wife to complete the illusion. A few years later, circumstances have propelled Robert to becoming US ambassador to Great Britain, but the mysterious deaths that got him there start hitting closer to home. Something is very wrong in the world, and Robert’s secretly adopted son Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) seems eerily connected to it all.
This remake of The Omen really boils down to an out-and-out horror flick that pulls NO punches; it’s been a long time since each death was held on screen for every savory second. Impalement, decapitations, and one that will make your skin crawl the next time you’re left alone in a hospital. At the same time, it’s a creepy thriller that showcases Liev Schreiber from non-believer to man-of-faith; the only question is, will his character be convinced of what everyone else in the audience can plainly see? Will he be in time to save himself and the entire world from the son of the devil himself?
There are a few requisite ‘boo’ scares (scary image and loud sound combo), but director John Moore does an excellent job of leaving not only the music out but cleverly quieting the sound until, at the same time you realize everything is too quiet, suddenly something happens and it’s not blown on a throwaway. Besides the perfectly creepy atmosphere, an above average cast (Harry Potter alumni David Thewlis and Michael Gambon are among Damien’s adversaries) keeps the drama and the mystery going in spite of the fact we all know where it’s going. Did I mention that the camera doesn’t pull away as the good guys are cut down like weeds?
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the original, long enough that I wasn’t sure what happened next, and that may be a good thing for this particular remake. The only real problem with the great setup and story is knowing it has to end and knowing HOW it should end, and this is also where the script and/or director finally trips at the finish line. It doesn’t take a whole lot of imagination to think of a better (or sneakier) way to for the good guys to thwart the bad guys, but if they did, you couldn’t have a sequel, now could you? Still, they could have made it less obvious and allowed the characters to continue showing the intelligence they had previous demonstrated throughout, so while it’s a good show, it stops just shy at being as great as it could have.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)