Problem child

“And stay away from Woody Allen movies!”

“And stay away from Woody Allen movies!”

Rated 3.0

Going into the remake of The Omen, my memories of the original from 1976 were a little hazy. It was all the rage when I was in junior high school (the kids who had HBO or Showtime would come to class bragging about having seen it). I guess I first saw it when I was 12 or something. I thought it was cool when that dude got his head cut off by a sheet of glass.

As I watched the remake, memories of the original came back to me because this is pretty much the exact same movie. So if you are some sort of Omen fanatic wearing Damien underwear and fondling your original Omen poster, this one might strike you as unnecessary. However, if you have only vague recollections about the original, this film’s a pretty cool walk down satanic memory lane.

Replacing Gregory Peck and Lee Remick are Liev Schreiber and (unfortunately) Julia Stiles as Robert and Katherine Thorn. While Schreiber is up to the challenge, I just can’t buy Stiles as a mom or, for that matter, as anything other than a classical dancer looking for street cred via hip hop moves.

When Katherine loses her child at birth, some priests hanging around the maternity ward have a solution: Do the old switcheroo with another baby without the mother knowing. Because Robert has major honesty issues (he is a high-ranking government official) and doesn’t care to share awful news with his wife, he agrees to the baby switch, unaware that the kid he’ll be taking home is the Antichrist. You hear that people? Don’t be switching your babies at the hospital. You could become responsible for kicking off Armageddon, thus making stuff like baptism and communion ceremonies extremely uncomfortable for the relatives.

Little Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick—an awfully cheery name for a child playing the spawn of Satan) is a normal kid, except for those “I’m-going-to-kill-you-in-the-name-of-his-satanic-majesty!” glares he occasionally flashes. When nannies start hanging themselves at his birthday party and evil dogs show up in his bedroom without being invited, Robert starts to realize that deceiving his wife about the kid wasn’t such a good idea. Davey-Fitzpatrick is alright in the role, but he’s no Harvey Stephens (the original Damien, who still takes the cake for creepy children).

Stiles is all wrong in the role of Katherine Thorn. She used to tackle Shakespeare quite efficiently with films like Hamlet and O, but this time out, her performance is forced. She’s not awful, and she does manage a couple of decent scenes, but a more mature actress would’ve been preferable. Schreiber is coolness, sufficiently filling the shoes of Peck.

David Thewlis, who’s been rather tiresome of late in films such as Basic Instinct 2, does well with the photographer role once occupied by David Warner. Pete Postlethwaite is decent as the ill-fated priest who witnessed Damien’s birth from the womb of a jackal (he, quite appropriately, found this distressing). Best of all is Mia Farrow, Rosemary herself, as the evil nanny who doesn’t feel all that hot about Damien’s parents taking him to church on Sunday. When Farrow’s nanny has had enough and gets down with the violence on Robert, it’s the greatest scene in the film. Farrow is such a sweetheart, so watching her try to claw Schreiber’s eyes out is a kick.

To reiterate, this is almost a note-for-note remake of the original, down to the final stare Damien makes straight into the camera at film’s end. Davey-Fitzpatrick merely smirks, while the original Damien Stephens did that big-assed creepy grin that suggested the world was totally screwed.