His mother was a Jackal... But he's a Jackass!
When I was in Elementary School, we had a French Teacher named Madame Damien. Being Belgian she pronounced her name more like "Damn-yaw". We never considered that her name was pronounced "Day-me-Ehn"... it was always that rolling French Accented name. Until one day when our Halitosis-maven Math Teacher came in and called her "Miss Day-Me-Ehn", instead of Mah-Damn Damn-yaw. We were stunned. Being a future linguist and etymologist I began analyzing the name. Damien... son of the Devil... Damn-yaw. "Damn", as in Damnation, coupled with "Yaw", as in to deviate erratically from a set course. That's when I realized, Madame Damien was steering us straight to perdition. No wonder she made us memorize that horrible French Version of "We Are the World" known as "Nous Sommes Le Monde".
Oh, fuck, that's awful. I mean, it's true... all of it... but it's fucking awful for a review.
The truth is, I'm deviating erratically from writing this review... because I don't really wanna write the damned thing. The reason is, in spite of the fact that I'm a huge fan of the original 1976 The Omen, this remake is to the overall Damien franchise as Superglue-infused Preparation H is to a Hemorrhoid. We're reaching for it today (today being the actual date 6.6.6) because we think we need it, but after we're done we realize what a mistake we've made.
Interested in who wrote the screenplay for this brown-fish? It was David Seltzer, that bubbly writer of the original The Omen. Want to know who directed it? John Moore, whose two biggest movies were Flight of the Phoenix (the remake) and Behind Enemy Lines (an O-wen Wil-son ac-tion mo-vie!!!). Naturally, this qualifies him to remake one of the most noteworthy supernatural horror flicks of all time. Wouldn't that be kind of like me showing up as the co-host of Ebert and Macek? Bad idea! (In case I'm wrong, Rog, it rhymes with "Basic".) Man, way to squander a script. To be fair, this film has a fantastic cast in almost every role. To be accurate, most of them have never been worse.
After a headache-inducing opening that states that every tragedy from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to September 11, 2001 was actually a sign and/ or portent of the coming of the antichrist, we follow essentially the exact same script as the original. I'm wondering if maybe Seltzer was wanting a few bucks for a vacation, but was, you know, in a damned hurry, so he just took the old script, wrote on it with a grease pencil, then hopped a plane and got high. This time, Liev Schreiber adds his pout and jowls to the role of Robert Thorn, who replaces his (allegedly) still-born baby boy for some other kid who looks nothing like him (except for the fact that they both have jowls and pout a lot). Even though this could cost his peace of mind and soul, he's doing it to comfort his wife, Katherine (Julia Stiles, clearly wishing for better things), and to keep her from finding out that her "special little guy" is as evil as a Best Buy Merchandise Return Clerk, but with better clothes.
Moore and the David Seltzer Orchestra would have us believe that Damien (aren't you just asking for trouble if you name a kid that?) was a perfect little sugar bear until his fifth birthday, when the Goat Shit hits the fan and, within months, everything goes to the dogs... or... Jackals, as the case may be. While we're supposed to believe that this is going to be another The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby, around the time that Exorcist wannabe Father Brennan (Pete Postlethwaite) shows up on the Left and the actual Rosemary Mia Farrow (as evil-Nanny Baylock) shows up on the Right, we realize we're actually watching Catholic Crossfire without Tucker Carlson to moderate.
When poor Katherine realizes she's caught in the satanic tug-o-war, Ol' Robbie-boy just pouts some more, until it's too darned late. Hey, he won't listen to a Man of the Cloth who knows more about his family life than he knows his own damned self, but when a strange, Gap-shopping tabloid photographer named Keith Jennings (David Thewlis, again) walks up saying the same damned thing Thorn finally gets all rosie and starts doing something.
From there, Keith and Robert (sounds like a Country Music duo, doesn't it?) globe-trot their way from country to country meeting up with Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Michael Gambon, and virtually every dude in a high, white collar that had seven minutes for a Cameo. All this to find out what the audience has found to be laughably obvious: Damien Thorn is the Son of the Devil, using his stepfather's Ambassadorial status to take over the world! Or... is it his status as The Manchurian Candidate?
The original The Omen was, in my opinion, pretty damned good, however, there are more conflicting opinions on that than there are about Same-Sex Marriage in Congress. Some say it's gold, some say it's wadded-up aluminum foil. In the remake, most of the same things happen, but those same things are so amplified, over the top and bombastic that I had to triple-check the credits to make sure Michael "Stupid" Bay's name wasn't on the horking thing. Where subtlety clicked in the original, sensationalism pops in the remake. Those little rough flaws that simply didn't add up in the original are like Rhinoplastic warts in the remake, thrusting right on out at the audience like Uncle Sam's pointer finger. The whole movie feels obvious and plain, to the point that the trappings and plots of the satanic conspirators should, logically, be simplistically worked-around. Turns out covens target the moronic... and it works. The ending, specifically, could have so much more logically resolved... I mean, dudes, just don't do anything stupid, and you save the world from the jaws of Lucifer. It's like you have to TRY to be a fuck up here.
A butt-load of this flick feels rushed to cash in on this coincidental 6.6.6 date. It's a cool marketing idea, and it worked, considering I went to see the damned thing. However, some of the special effects look unfinished and matted in. Julia Stiles, who is a good actress, sounds like she's reading from cue-cards in the occasional scene.
Worst of all, our Damien is about as scary as a bathing hamster. Little Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick is doing his best as our cerulean antichrist-to-be, but his facial expressions look more hilarious than scary. Half the time I thought he just had some bad eggs for breakfast or something. "OOOOOOOOH, that extra Tabasco was NOT a good idea MA!" When in doubt he just narrows his eyes in an expression that screams "I'm gonna eat you!" a lot less than it screams "You changed the channel off of Barney! WHY?" Yeah, I know, he's just a little kid. That argument might just hold wine if there hadn't already been a version of The Omen starring a truly scary-ass kid (Harvey Stephens, who has a cameo here as the much more scary-ass "Tabloid Reporter #3").
Of course, very little of the film is truly scary. Oh, it's startling, and it takes the time to yell "Boo!" at you to make you jump a time or six, but there's little atmosphere or creepiness. Quick Camera Cut, loud noise, orchestra hit, brief, vaguely startling image. That's the formula! I mean, they might as well have jumped out and yelled "PRESIDENT QUAYLE!!!" That would be scary.
While I'd love to give this splasher a Dog (especially because I could have made all kinds of "Jackal" jokes), there are a few redeeming qualities here. There's a really interesting eye to set-design to be seen in The Omen, and Moore manages to take advantage of this, especially in the large and decorative houses. Although not always sensible, the make-up design and visual themes also float my boat, in an otherwise intestinally painful experience. Further, both Thewlis and Schreiber are earnest and sincere actors, giving their all, even with the least intelligent lines (at one point, during an expository sequence, Thewlis actually has to say "Bear with me" because the ideas are dumber than disco drums). For a brief time in the middle of the film, when Jennings and Thorn get away from the blackened and blued main-plot to spend time playing Inbanana Jones across Italy and Israel, the film manages to become fairly interesting and watchable. Of course, about that time a big, ugly dog hurls out, makes us jump, and reminds us that it's silliness time all over again.
Stay through the credits... not for an extra scene, but for a "Special Thanks" credit to original The Omen director, Richard Donner. I wonder if they're saying "Thanks for not Suing us, Dick!" Well, hell. I guess, as a Catholic myself, I should be happy that The Omen sucked this time around. I mean, this means there's very little chance that Satan's going to be taking over Spaceship Earth with schemes like this. Two Stars out of Five for The Omen, the 666-oriented gut-punching flick released on 6.6.6 that doesn't even achieve 3, 3, 3 stars. Dude. I've got to wonder, Kemosabes, with the implication that the Vatican and the Pope were in on the defense, why the hell did they send the craziest, creepiest, most potentially-alienating priest to go approach Robert Thorn??? Way to get things done, kids... Would you send Flavor-Flav to council David Dukkke on his campaign plans? Ah, well. The movie's over, and 6.6.6 is almost over too. In some ways, maybe it would be better if the world had ended today. It would have put a stop to this recent rash of lame horror remakes. See you in the next reel. Jesus Christ is my personal savior, in this reel or the next.
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