Tuesday, June 13, 2006

THE OMEN MOVIE REVIEW






















CAST: LIEV SCHREIBER, JULIA STILES, MIA FARROW, PETE POSTLETHWAITE, SEAMUS DAVEY-FITZPATRICK
DIRECTOR: JOHN MOORE
RUNTIME: 110 min.
RATING: ***
GENRE: HORROR, THRILLER

Every other major movie to come out of Hollywood nowadays is either a sequel or a remake. We have already had one remake the previous month that bombed miserably.
But THE OMEN is a fresh breath of air and a shot in the arm for all remakes. The 1975 original wasn’t exactly a masterpiece but it is still one of the greatest horror movies ever made. The 2006 version is every bit as worthy as the original.
THE OMEN faithfully follows the screenplay of the original and in a way builds up on it. Those who haven’t seen the original, the Book of Revelation speaks of the birth of Anti-Christ. When the predictions come true one by one and a comet is seen over Europe just like the Star of Bethlehem when Jesus was born, Vatican is engulfed into a deep crisis. Meanwhile in Rome the U.S. ambassador Robert Thorne’s newborn son dies during the delivery. The hospital priest gives him another son to let his wife not suffer the news that she would never be able to conceive again. The son is named Damien. Thorne, who is the U.S. president’s godson, is made the ambassador to Great Britain after the one to take over the post dies in a bizarre accident. Strange things start happening once they move over to Great Britain. Thorne’s wife Katherine Thorn (Julia Stiles) starts getting strange thoughts about their son Damien. A certain priest Father Brennan (Pete Postlethwaite) warns Thorne of the impending danger. Everything is leading up to what the Bible calls Armageddon.
The theme of the rise of Anti-Christ and how he plans to rule the world is basically political. The connection between the predictions and the actual events like 9/11 and the Asian Tsunami is a bit clumsy and hard to digest but still well intended. THE OMEN says that the Anti-Christ’s main weapon would be politics. In fact Napoleon and Hitler who won their world with politics and war are also referred to as Anti-Christs.
Still neither the original nor the remake is intelligent enough to be debated about. The strength of the original and the remake are purely technical. THE OMEN works mainly because of a fantastic plot and some pretty good direction. The background score is sufficiently creepy although it doesn’t match up to the tension that was created in the original. THE OMEN boasts of a rock solid pacing. The movie never rushes neither does it drags. The story is told with great lucidity. As a matter of fact THE OMEN is almost a frame by frame rework of the original and that is in a good vein. James Moore seems to be a great believer of remakes. His last movie, FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX, was also a remake. Moore is greatly influenced by the original so much so that the cemetery sequence is shot with the same lighting. He could have shot the sequence on location but instead chose to bring the same effect by shooting it in a studio setting. Although THE OMEN is a frame by frame remake, it still is a good movie. At least, it is a worthy relief from the numerous remakes of the Hong Kong movies that have little or no storyline to follow.
The performances are plain fantastic. With the notable exception of Liev Schreiber everyone comes up with wonderful performances.
This, I guess is Julia Stiles first foray into the horror genre and boy isn’t she good. She so convincingly portrays the belief that her character carries that her womb is some sort of a haven for evil. The beauty of her performance is that she seldom screams and still she makes for a thrilling scene.
Live Schreiber is very inert; much like Gregory Peck was 21 years ago. It is as if he is going through the motions of the movie. It is as if he is short of valuable supply of expressions. It is just that the direction and the background score that save his scenes from collapsing.
The supporting cast is wonderful. That is what you expect when you have trained British actors. Pete Postlethwaite (THE USUAL SUSPECTS), David Thewlis (THE NEW WORLD, THE BIG LEBOWSKI) and Michael Gambon (HARRY POTTER movies, GOSFORD PARK) give such fantastic performances that only add to the thrill of the experience.
But the two standout performers are the evil pair, Mia Farrow and young Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick as Damien. Casting Mia Farrow as the evil governess is nothing short of a brilliant move considering the fact that it was she who gave birth to the Anti-Christ in the movie that first started it all, Roman Polanski’s ROSEMARY’S BABY. It is her eyes that are so sinister and menacing. The way she speaks itself exudes evil.
The kid is definitely creepy as hell. I don’t know where they brought him from but he sure knows what he’s doing. Both of these actors make for a marked improvement on the original.
THE OMEN is supremely confident in itself so much so that it doesn’t even care for cheap thrills. It faithfully follows its story with a fantastically stylish approach. That was one thing missing from the original. I don’t know how to put it but the flavor of horror that is on display is more of a royal kind. I would like to point out a couple of bird’s eye-view shots of the Robert Thorne and Keith Jennings traveling. They so much reminded me of Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINING, the greatest horror movie ever made. I even liked the way John Moore uses the mental state of Katherine Thorn to go for sudden shocking moments that are sure to make you jump out of your seat.
I like my horror movies when there is religion interlaced with it. Of late the horror genre has gone the way of the B-grade slasher flicks. In fact there is more of violence then scary moments in modern horror movies. Maybe THE OMEN brings back the grace that was so much a part of this genre. THE OMEN was very good but it spawned really bad sequels. The real test for John Moore is when he makes the sequel to THE OMEN. The source material that time around won't be that good.

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