It’s not easy to remake a classic, especially one about the Devil. After all, you don’t want to screw it up and piss him off. But this new version of The Omen is a capable do over. Sure Liev Schreiber isn’t exactly Gregory Peck, but he’s in a fairly well made horror film and that’s good enough.
If you’ve seen the original then you know what happens in the new one. The Omen 2006 sticks pretty strictly to the tenants of its predecessor, with the changes limited to modifying a few of the old movie’s bigger scenes with modern horror sensibilities. Mostly this boils down to switching a few locations, and showing in places where the old one might only have implied. If you haven’t seen the original, then here’s a quick sketch: A boy is born on 6/6/06, and he’s the son of the devil. He’s the anti-Christ. His adopted mother (Julia Stiles) doesn’t know he’s pure evil, but she starts to wonder when the five year old boy starts inspiring people to commit suicide in her honor.
The kid’s name is appropriately, Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), and what’s always been interesting about The Omen, both old and new, is how neutral Damien himself seems throughout the film. In the original he never overtly acts out, and it’s not entirely certain until the end that he really is the spawn of Satan. In the new version, it’s a little more obvious, but the creep factor is still there pushed by questions of is he or isn’t he the fruit of the great serpent’s loins.
Another critic remarked to me last night that what always freaked him out the most about The Omen was the crazed devotion Damien’s followers exercise towards him. But I think if you really want to be scared to death by Damien’s misadventures in parent killing, you have to come into the thing with at least some belief in the actual existence of Satan. If you’re superstitious, you’ll probably walk out waiting for Armageddon to start. If you’re not, you’ll still enjoy this remake, but I can’t see anyone without a predisposition towards belief in the supernatural having nightmares because of it.
That’s not because of any flaw in director John Moore’s remake; if anything I think this one does a little bit better job of ratcheting up the tension than the first one, which at times seems a little humdrum for a horror flick. The story is just something designed primarily for people eager to buy into all this Christ anti-Christ conflict. Whatever it is about The Omen that does or doesn’t scare you though, this new version is a capable horror film with a quality cast and enough sense to avoid going too over the top. Moore can’t resist a good decapitation now and then, but for the most part he’s got enough sense to let things unfold as they should.