Yet another 70s horror remake (this year we’ve already seen retreads of “The Hills Have Eyes”, “When a Stranger Calls” and “The Fog”) that sees Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles stepping into the shoes of Gregory Peck and Lee Remick from Richard Donner’s original.
Schreiber plays Robert Thorn, an American diplomat living in England, who begins to suspect that his freaky looking kid Damien (Davey-Fitzpatrick) is - quite literally - the Devil incarnate. Burnings, hangings and beheadings ensue as Bob and his weird mates (Postlethwaite hamming it up as a cancer-ridden priest and Thewlis’ soap-dodging photographer) strive to find out whether Damien really is the spawn of Satan, or just a temperamental little brat with a ropey haircut.
Without wishing to appear too cynical … it seems that the only reason this unnecessary remake was greenlighted by studio execs was the unmissable opportunity to cash in on a 6/6/06 – get it? – release date followed by the great timing of the DVD out in time for Hallowe'en, as director John Moore has created a virtual identikit replica.
The only major differences to the script are a few clunky references to the European Union, the Asian tsunami and 9/11, in a lame attempt to update the story for the “noughties” generation.
There are also, however, some rather entertaining “Final Destination”-style deaths, and a few random blood-drenched dream sequences to keep impatient viewers entertained during the quieter periods. And there’s some passing amusement to be had from seeing Mia Farrow taking over the Satan-worshipping nanny duties - in a nod to her own Devil-spawning role in “Rosemary’s Baby” – and Postlethwaite’s intentionally hammy performance as Father Brennan.
The highlight of this better-than-average special features package is a 50-minute behind the scenes documentary, “Omenisms”, that shows what a rotten time everyone seems to have had making the movie.
Chief among the grumblers is director John Moore who claims that the production was cursed (interestingly, a TV documentary called The Curse of the Omen was made after the 1976 original was famously blighted by a string of unlucky incidents) and express his frustration at the incessant meddling he faced during filming from the producers.
Moore seems far happier on the lively director’s commentary (accompanied by producer Glen Williamson and editor Dan Zimmerman) however, where he reveals some interesting details about why they decided to include images of the attack on the World Trade Center in the final cut. For the more blood thirsty viewer, there are also a couple of gore-fuelled extended scenes that were deemed too gruesome for the theatre release.
The package is completed by “Revelations 666”, an enjoyable examination of the origins of the “Number of the Beast” featuring expert contributions from the academic community.
Sadly, however, this slick remake lacks any of the tension or dread of the 1976 effort, perhaps due to the director’s decision to axe Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score, which was crucial to the original’s cult classic status.
Staring: Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, David Thewlis, Mia Farrow, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Gambon, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick
Directed by: John Moore
Extras: Audio commentary by John Moore, Glen Williamson and Dan Zimmerman, Omenisms documentary, 'Abbey Road' featurette , 'Revelations 666' featurette, Extended scenes, Alternative ending, Trailers