Without going into any lengthy tirade over the whole issue of remakes, I think it’s safe to say that there should at least be an honest reason for remaking an earlier film. One such reason would be that the original was a flawed or somehow failed work such as “The Amityville Horror” or “The Hills Have Eyes”, both of which have their loyal admirers but clearly had much room for improvement. Unfortunately this was not the case with a bona fide classic like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, which simply stands on its own, needing no financial or artistic assistance whatsoever, and a few extra dollars and Jessica Biel add nothing to the original work.
A second, perhaps more compelling reason to remake a film would be that the original failed to truly exploit its basic premise due to the censorship of the times or the limitations of visual effects available. Films such as Cronenberg’s “The Fly” and Carpenter’s “The Thing” both re-imagined, expanded, and expressed the full force of the source material in ways the original could not conceive. Which brings me to this 2006 remake of “The Omen”.
The original was made in the wake of the 70’s big budget studio devil movies “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Exorcist”, and although it remains memorable, it’s certainly no classic. The real reason for this remake seems to be the novelty of the release date — June 6th, 2006 . And that’s unfortunate since the concept could have used some dusting off. For those of you who don’t already know the story, it’s the one where this kid named Damien has the number 666 marked on his head, and who turns out to be not a human boy, but rather the Anti-Christ himself, born from the womb of a jackal and raised by his unsuspecting parents in the world of politics. And even if you have never seen the original, you probably still know the film’s lore. The movie’s mythology has surpassed the film and moved securely into the mainstream of popular culture.
For this we can credit screenwriter David Seltzer, best known at the time of the original as the uncredited writer who reworked Roald Dahl’s script for the original “Willy Wonka” (itself remade recently by Tim Burton and Johnny Depp). And although Seltzer reportedly banged out “The Omen” script for purely mercenary dollars, his version of Revelations still stands almost as strongly as the lore Curt Siodmak created for the 1941 classic “The Wolf Man”. Both films even share their own respective poems to recite.
Now for those of you who missed Richard Donner’s original, go out and rent it instead of seeing this 2006 version. Then after you’ve enjoyed that trashy but fun film, close your eyes and replay the highlights of the movie in your mind, only replacing Gregory Peck with Liev Schreiber, Lee Remick with Julia Stiles, and a constipated, pouting little brat as Damien. That’s all you need to tell your friends that you saw the “new” film.
The 2006 version is credited solely to one David Seltzer, writer of the original. You would think Seltzer would take the opportunity to work with director John Moore to re-imagine, expand, and express the full force of his Revelations concept for our current times. You’d be wrong. Either Seltzer did no work at all on the remake, or he was very cleverly and simply printed up a new copy of his stale script, slapped a fresh “sell by” date on the cover and lit up a cigar. John Moore’s movie was shot with the exact same script as the original, line for line and scene for scene. As a result, we are left to sit in the dark watching the very slow unravelling of a mystery that is mysterious to no one.
If you thought Gus Van Sant’s “Psycho” reshoot was weird, check this one out. It’s like a community theater version of that old classic “The Omen”, filled with all your favorite scenes. The Birthday Party hanging — check. The Priest skewering — check. The monkey attack — check. Cemetery dogfight — check. Shocking decapitation scene — check. Most of these scenes are exact replicas of the original, only not as good. And when director Moore gets creative and tries to do something different with the familiar scenes, you wish he would go back and make his replica instead.
Prague once again stands in for all of Europe , but still looks like Prague . Fortunately Prague is very photogenic, and the movie is actually rated R, which I have to give the filmmakers credit in this land of bland PG-13 horror movies. But if the film feels like “community theater”, the acting is thankfully as good as expected. Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Mia Farrow (whose casting is a joke in itself), Pete Posthlewaite, David Thewlis and Michael Gambon are all very good actors and do their best with the material at hand. The problem is that while they’re all good at their craft, but they’re not movie stars.
The original “Omen” depended heavily on its casting for its effectiveness. For instance, Peck’s movie star persona as the father figure from “To Kill a Mockingbird” is turned on its head as he decides to kill a child. His gravitas drives the movie, and the audience accepts the absurd plot machinations because Peck convinces us that he believes them. His presence and the black mass score by Jerry Goldsmith save the movie from total absurdity.
And that’s another final nail in the new “Omen’s” coffin: They junked the Oscar winning score by Jerry Goldsmith. Except for a few piano notes from the original, we get horror stings and suspense strings from Marco Beltrami that is instantly forgettable. Why would Fox Studios not use the original score with all its Latin chanting and creepy Dies Irae riffs? The music of “The Omen” is as tied to that score as Herrmann’s shrieking violins are to “Psycho”. A terrible choice, but unfortunately right in line with all the other wrong choices made by the creators of this 2006 version. It is, in the end, a dishonest and pointless remake.
John Moore (director) / David Seltzer (screenplay)
CAST: Liev Schreiber …. Robert Thorn
Giovanni Lombardo Radice …. Father Spiletto
Julia Stiles …. Katherine Thorn
Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick …. Damien
Amy Huck …. Nanny
David Thewlis …. Keith Jennings
Reggie Austin …. Tom Portman
Pete Postlethwaite …. Father Brennan
Mia Farrow …. Mrs. Baylock