Friday, July 1, 2016

Franchises: The Omen. The Omen (2006)

I didn't even realize that this film was being made until May of 2006 when, after finishing my first year of college, I was waiting around in an airport in Nashville to kick off my summer break by flying to Orlando for a week. I picked up a magazine (Entertainment Weekly, I think), just happened to turn to the back of the issue where it talked about upcoming summer movies, and saw that one of the films coming out in June was The Omen. Within a split-second, my mind shuffled through the idea that maybe it was a re-release of the original or another sequel before, upon reading the piece, realizing that it was a remake. This surprised me on two levels. One, even though I didn't, and still don't, keep up with movie news that closely, I did read IMDB on a regular basis and never saw anything about this film's production. Two, thinking about it, this was the first really popular horror film of the 1970's and 80's that got put through the remake machine. At this point, you'd had the remakes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead but those films were much less mainstream and more on a cult level, whereas The Omen was a bonafide blockbuster back in 1976 and had remained a well-known title. I think it also affected me more personally because, with those two other films, I didn't see them until after the remakes were out (and in the case of the former, I saw the remake first), but The Omen was a movie I'd watched many times and it had become one of my favorite horror films. I wasn't outraged when I heard it was being remade but it did make me begin to realize that no name horror film from the 70's and 80's, no matter how big in stature, was safe from being remade, a notion that was confirmed for me when I learned of Rob Zombie's Halloween later that year (which also affected me personally since John Carpenter's original is another movie I have a nostalgic attachment to). Regardless, this wasn't a film I had any interest in seeing, in the theater or anywhere else. I loved the original so much and felt that it was done well enough, so I had no interest in seeing someone else attempt to do the same thing, despite how well they may have done it. Other than some TV spots and a brief glimpse of it on cable one day, I stuck to my guns and, like Omen IV: The Awakening, probably never would have seen it had it not been for this blog. Having failed any finding anywhere online to watch Omen IV, I went looking for this film and was, thankfully, successful, so I didn't have to spend money on it. Going into it, I was expecting to get a major sense of deja vu since I'd heard that this was a virtual shot-for-shot remake, not unlike Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho; I just didn't realize how accurate that assessment would be. While not quite as egregious as what Van Sant did, and certainly more well-made than Omen IV, this is still a prime example of what a remake should not be, which is a virtual Xerox of the original, only one with weaker actors, less-inspired direction, and an overall hollow, soulless feel to it.

David Seltzer
There is no point in me giving a plot synopsis because it is the same exact story: an American diplomat in Rome is told that his son died in childbirth, adopts an orphaned baby boy without telling his wife, becomes Ambassador to Great Britain, strange and disturbing occurrences begin to happen once little Damien turns five years old, the Ambassador is warned by a priest that his child is the son of the devil and that he must die before being killed himself, his wife begins to lose her mind and becomes intolerant of her own son before he, intentionally or not, puts her in the hospital, the Ambassador is contacted by an English photographer who shows him signs that supernatural forces are at work, they travel to Rome to investigate Damien's past, discover evidence that proves he's probably the Antichrist, etc. There are tweaks to the story here and there, as with any remake, so it's not a shot-for-shot remake, but it certainly is a beat-for-beat one. In fact, it gets even worse when the movie enters its second half. While the first half was a virtual copy of the original film, there was still enough fresh stuff thrown in that I could tolerate it, but once Keith Jennings contacts Robert Thorn about the circumstances surrounding Father Brennan's death, it plays out so much like the original that I could predict what was going to be said next because I've seen the original so many times and 98% of the time, I was right. That's not good, and it only reiterates the pointless feel to this movie. Even more baffling is that the sole person who's given writing credit is David Seltzer, who also wrote the original. This is a guy who didn't have anything to do with the sequels because he said he's not interested in doing them as a writer but, apparently, he's okay with Xeroxing one of his scripts and adding in little touches to make it just a tad bit different. Head-scratching doesn't even begin to describe this situation.

Like Richard Donner, this was one of the first films for John Moore, an Irish-born director who started out making short films and commercials in Ireland before making the jump to movies; unlike Donner, though, Moore's filmography, which is still pretty small at this point, hasn't been nearly as well-received. I've heard some good things about his first film, Behind Enemy Lines (which he got to direct because 20th Century Fox was impressed by his directing job on a commercial for the Sega Dreamcast), but I can't say the same about anything else he's done, which include Flight of the Phoenix with Dennis Quaid, Max Payne with Mark Wahlberg, which is hated by most fans of the game for being a very poor adaptation of it, and A Good Day to Die Hard, which is, at this point, the only Die Hard I haven't seen but I've heard is the worst by far. And yet, Moore has managed to become something of a lower key Michael Bay in that, despite all of the negative critical and fan reception his movies have garnered, they've been very successful (A Good Day to Die Hard has been his biggest hit so far), and that includes The Omen, which made $119.5 million on a $25 million budget (I don't think it deserved to earn that much money but that's another matter). In fact, Flight of the Phoenix, another remake, has been the only film of his that's out-and-out bombed, which could be a testament to how his biggest successes have been movies with ties to popular products and franchises, rather than due to anything he himself brings to the table. Regardless, he's had enough success to where it doesn't seem like he's going to go away any time soon, with his next film being I.T., a thriller starring Pierce Brosnan (his first wholly original movie since Behind Enemy Lines, so we'll see how that goes).

Speaking of Pierce Brosnan, he was one of the people considered for the role of Robert Thorn (as well as Jim Carrey, oddly enough) and, God, do I wish he or anybody else with some charisma would've gotten it instead of this plank of wood named Liev Schreiber. I thought Schreiber was okay in his supporting role in the Scream movies but, man, does he flounder in the role that Gregory Peck excelled in! His basic problem is that, except for the scenes where he's learned that his son died after being born and at the end when he's finding it hard to stab his son to death, he shows no damn emotion! See that look on his face in the photo? He has that same, blank expression for almost the entire movie. Even when he discovers that his son was actually murdered as soon as he was born or learns that his wife has just died, he shows so little emotion in his face and his reactions that you'd think he'd been taken over by one of the body snatchers. What's more, while Peck's version of Thorn was smart enough to realize that there was something odd about Damien in how he'd never been sick a day in his life, Schreiber doesn't pick up on it at all and, like Kathy in the original, dismisses it as Damien just being a healthy boy. The difference, though, is that it felt like Kathy was in denial, not wanting to admit that there was something wrong with her son, while Thorn just comes across as dumb here. And even worse, they still have him go from wanting Damien to die to wanting nothing to do with stabbing a child, saying that Bugenhagen could be wrong about his being the Antichrist, within a scene transition. That was my only major problem with the character in the original but Peck's portrayal was so rich that I was able to come up with possible reasons for this sudden change of heart, whereas Schreiber, again, just seems like a moron. In fact, they make it even worse here by having Thorn tell Keith Jennings that there is no God or devil, in spite of everything that he's seen and experienced (chief among them the damn jackal bones in the crypt purported to be the final resting place of Damien's mother, which corresponds with what Father Brennan told him) and how he did seem to believe the devil when he remembered Brennan's poem and said that he wanted Damien dead. The only thing about Thorn in this version that's kind of interesting is seeing how he got the job of Ambassador to Great Britain when the previous one, whom he was serving under as deputy, died in apparent freak accident and how he himself feels that it may be a case of nepotism since he also happens to be the President's godson... and, guess what? Never mentioned again after the opening, so it ended up being completely pointless.

Julia Stiles is a little bit more interesting than Schreiber in her role of Kate Thorn, mainly because she's the one who picks up on the notion that there's something very strange about Damien. She not only mentions how he's never been sick a day in his life like normal kids but also talks about how distant he is and how she can't reach him. This version makes it more clear that, as time goes on, she starts to fear Damien, especially when she begins having bizarre and disturbing dreams centering around him and all of the unsettling events start piling up as well. You get a look at the strain that this is having not only on Kate but on her and Thorn's marriage as well, which was already a little rocky due to his working all the time and not being around to take Damien off her hands every once in a while, especially when she reveals to him that she's pregnant. She's much more forceful about it than Kathy was in the original: while she asked her husband if he would agree to an abortion, Kate just comes out and tells him that she's having one and that she doesn't want any more children. The biggest difference between the two versions of Mrs. Thorn, though, is her death scene: instead of being thrown out the hospital window, here Mrs. Baylock creates an air bubble in her IV tube, causing her to die from air embolism. This makes her death much more disturbing to watch since it's long and drawn out and also because she's aware of it the whole time, with Baylock muffling her screams as she watches the air bubble head down the tube towards her bloodstream. In fact, it's the most disturbing scene in the film, by far. But, all that said, Stiles is no Lee Remick in the acting department and so, despite how much they try, I'm ultimately not that affected by her death, as unsettling as it is, especially given Thorn's lackluster reaction upon hearing about it. (I know I keep harping on this but, man, Gregory Peck's eyes welled up with tears and he hung up the phone and began sobbing, which affected me considerably, while Schreiber just sits there with a blank stare and slowly puts the phone down in his lap. I don't remember him even sniffling.)

One of the film's major problems in sticking so close to the original is that the actors, as talented as the majority of them are, are unable to bring much new to the table and mostly can only show up on set and go through the motions of those that came before them. Nowhere is that more true than in David Thewlis' casting as photographer Keith Jennings. Except become the first person to drop the F-bomb in an Omen movie in a couple of his lines as well as maybe feel a little more hip (mainly through his clothes and equipment) than David Warner's, admittedly, old-fashioned portrayal, he honestly is only able to do the same things that Warner did beat-for-beat: hang around several events where Robert Thorn is present, get his camera smashed by him accidentally, discover bizarre marks in his photographs that foretell the deaths of others, including his own, contact Thorn, show him this stuff and other bizarre evidence he discovered at Father Brennan's home, and journey with him to Italy to investigate Damien's past, discover proof that he's the Antichrist (at least, for him), and head to Jerusalem, where he tries to do what Thorn refuses to and gets decapitated for his trouble. In fact, the only other new aspects of this version's portrayal of Jennings that I can think of is how, because it's 2006, he's able to look at digital versions of his photographs, how Bugenhagen doesn't make him wait outside when he's showing Thorn the daggers like he did before, and the slightly different way in which he dies, although it still involves his head getting sliced off. If you can't tell, I'm really struggling to come up with anything else to say about him here, and it also doesn't help that I'm a bigger fan of Warner than Thewlis in general.

When I saw one of the TV spots for this film, one thing that immediately caught my attention was the appearance of Pete Postlethwaite as Father Brennan. I was really happy to see that he was still getting work since I enjoyed him in not only The Lost World: Jurassic Park but also Amistad when I saw it in high school. I'm really sad that he's gone now because he was an actor I always liked watching and, even though he doesn't have much more to do here other than fill the shoes of Patrick Troughton, he makes the most of what he's given to do and is also able to bring some different nuances to the role. When he warns Robert Thorn about Damien, he comes across as more composed than Troughton, although still quite terrified, and his dialogue makes it clearer that he was once part of the Satanic cult that engineered Damien's adoption, as he says he "participated" as well as witnessed Damien's birth and says that he wants to save Thorn so God will forgive him and "save me from eternal damnation." And that's another thing Postlethwaite's portrayal brings to the table: while you could debate whether or not Troughton's Brennan was trying to save Thorn because he also deeply regretted having a hand in saddling this unsuspecting couple with the son of Satan, here it seems like he's mostly just trying to save himself, judging from that statement, although he does later say that all will be lost if Thorn doesn't seek out Bugenhagen. Later on, you also get a sense of just how awful Brennan's personal life was in that he wasn't really living at all. Besides being paranoid and riddled with cancer like before, rather than a crappy apartment like the original, here his home was a basement! Oh, yeah, and here, he's able to tell Thorn that Damien's real mother was jackal before the guards come to take him away, not that it makes much difference since Thorn goes on believing that none of it's real even after he finds the jackal carcass in the grave, which collaborates Brennan's claims.

Supposedly, the reason why they cast Mia Farrow as Mrs. Baylock here is because, by happy coincidence, she and Julia Stiles had been in a play together and that was enough persuasion for her but I can't help but be cynical and feel that her connection to Satanic cinema with Rosemary's Baby also had something to do with it. Regardless, like Pete Postlethwaite, Farrow is able to bring her own energy to the role and, most significantly, is able to come across as quite a different character rather than just stand in for Billie Whitelaw. She initially feels like a reassuring, comforting motherly figure, as opposed to Whitelaw's rather imposing presence, and if the original movie didn't exist, you could be lulled into thinking that she's not evil at all with how sweet she is when she first arrives and how she very kindly tells Damien when he's not so sure about her, "I'm here to protect you." That's another thing: while you knew from her first scene that Whitelaw's Baylock was evil, Farrow's portrayal is slowly but surely shown to have a sinister side. In this version, Baylock tries to make an excuse for Damien not going to church, saying that he's ill and didn't sleep much the night before, whereas in the original, she felt like she was already trying to usurp Mrs. Thorn's authority, saying that Damien was too young for church and the like. It's only in the scene where Robert Thorn runs into the Rottweiler that Baylock brought into the house without his permission that you see there's something not right about her, which is strengthened by how she plots what's going to happen to Kate ahead of time. She also becomes much more of a mother figure for Damien than Kate, as she's the only one he'll respond to and interact with. The creepiest scene involving her is when she kills Kate by causing her to suffocate from air embolism, all the while clamping her hand over her mouth while she screams helplessly and reassuring her, "It's alright," and, "Almost there." She even kisses her on the cheek after she's expired, which does kind of make you go, "Ugh." Although, when you think about it, her method of killing her here does draw suspicion on her since that nurse knows she was the last one to see Kate alive, while in the original, it feels Baylock snuck in and threw Kathy out the window in order to make it look as if she committed suicide. Unfortunately, despite how good her acting is throughout the majority of the film, Farrow's not being as imposing a presence as Whitelaw makes it hard for me to take her seriously when she attacks Thorn during the climax since she looks so small and weak, and her death in this version is laughable, while Whitelaw's was brutal and much more impactful.

If you're a fan of Italian horror films, then you likely know of Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who's known for dying gruesome deaths in various films like Cannibal Ferox, Lucio Fulci's City of the Living Dead, and Ruggero Deodato's The House on the Edge of the Park, among others. Here, he plays Father Spiletto (at first, I thought he was Christoph Waltz), the priest who arranges for Robert Thorn to adopt Damien. Other than a lie about Kate's womb being damaged during the birth, which he says has rendered her unable to become pregnant again (which is why Thorn is incredulous when Father Brennan claims that she is; although, like the original, it doesn't explain how he knows that), Radice is one actor in this film who really has nothing to do other than speak the same lines that Martin Benson did before. In fact, he has even less to play with since there's no mention of Spiletto going through a penance for abandoning Jesus Christ and he doesn't come across as possibly regretful for what he did like Benson seemed to be. The makeup that they put on him for the film's second half when he's severely burned is much more gruesome than Benson's and covers his entire head rather than only half of his face and while it looks good, it's a prime example of what I feel is a big problem with this film: do everything the original did, only make it more extreme in some way. The characterization of Bugenhagen (Michael Gambon) here is interesting in that, while he speaks almost the same dialogue that Leo McKern did in the original, he's much more forceful and impatient towards Thorn about what he must do, to the point that he's almost ranting at him about it. Interestingly, even though Gambon is Irish-British, when you first see him he speaks in such a way that I thought he was American, which made me think, "Well, that's an interesting way to go!" And finally, one of the tabloid reporters who Thorn has to deal with after the suicide of Damien's original nanny (the one who suggests that she was on drugs) is played by a very special actor, the original Damien himself, Harvey Stephens.

Speaking of Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), lets get to him now. As in the original, he isn't really a character so much as he is a presence that everything else revolves around. In fact, he says even less than Harvey Stephens did, if you can believe that, although his lines have much more meaning, like when he asks Kate if he scared her when he hid from her while they were playing in the park and when he notes that the monkeys in the zoo are afraid. When he does speak, it becomes apparent why they didn't give him that much dialogue because, being so young, his voice is very high-pitched and his delivery isn't the best, and that they cast him simply for the way he looks, which is effective. I remember when I saw TV spots and a teaser trailer for the movie back then and when I saw Damien, I thought, "Man, that kid's creepy." However, that also works against the film because the thing about Damien in the original was that, even though he was rather creepy at points, he also had a certain innocence to him and there were moments where he behaved like a normal. Here, the "666" might as well be on his forehead because of how he looks and how distant and cold he behaves, a trait that begins to assert itself most noticeably after the death of his first nanny, so you could believe that Mrs. Baylock's influence had something to do with it. That leads me into another aspect of this version's Damien: he seems to know who he is, something that was more ambiguous in the original. Again, this could be due to Baylock, who may have told him and made him understand what his purpose is, which would explain why he acts so strangely towards his "parents," especially Kate.  Come to think of it, the only time he shows any real emotion after the death of his first nanny (aside from the obvious fear he exhibited when Robert Thorn took him to the church to kill him) is when he looks at Kate as she hangs over the edge of the railing after he knocks her over it. While he does nothing to help her, he seems like he's on the verge of tears as he watches her lose her grip, as if he doesn't want her to die but knows that this has to happen. The part that really makes me think that he knows who he is and what he can do is when he appears to momentarily take over the mind of the guard to Kate's hospital room where Baylock kills her inside, something that he never did in the original series until Damien: Omen II. But, at the same time, as it is initially in that film, it's possible that Damien doesn't understand the power he has but knows that it's there and just uses it (although, the moment he decided to use it is quite questionable). Ultimately, while some aspects of him in this version are interesting, I don't find myself that absorbed in Damien as I did in the original, which also goes for the entire movie.

As I continue to write about this film, I'm still dumbfounded about how much it is a pointless copy of the original. With all remakes, you should expect some things to be similar, but not only is it amazing how much of it remains the same in this instance but also how they inanely try to tweak the story here and there to keep it from being 100%. While these tweaks are certainly more significant than what differences Gus Van Sant put into the Psycho remake (the mere fact that you don't see someone jerking their chain here puts it above that movie for me), they're still ultimately pointless for the most part and make you wish that they had simply tried to make an original film altogether. There are several major additions to the film, such as the events that lead to Robert Thorn becoming Ambassador, Kate's different death scene, the bizarre dreams that she and, eventually, her husband have about Damien, and, most significantly and best of all, in my opinion, a different opening where a priest at the Vatican observatory sees the comet that signifies the birth of the Antichrist (which you only heard about in the original) and informs the Cardinal, leading to a meeting among the officials there where it is revealed that past events, such as 9/11 and the Columbia disaster, correspond with prophecies in the Book of Revelations and that Armageddon is at hand. While I could have done without the actual footage of those and other real-life disasters, there is a feeling of dread and doom about the scene, as the priests try to come to terms with the knowledge that the son of Satan has just been born. Too bad the film doesn't live up to its promise and those characters are pointless since they're never seen again until briefly at the end. Other than those significant examples, the tweaks to the story are so meaningless that you wonder why they even bothered. Just to name a few, you have Father Spiletto lying to Thorn about damage to Kate's womb from the birth, the dog that inspires the nanny to hang herself being something along the lines of a darkly-colored German Shepherd rather than a Rottweiler (although that's still what Mrs. Baylock brings into the house and what attacks Thorn and Keith Jennings in the cemetery), Father Brennan managing to tell Thorn that Damien's real mother was a jackal, the zoo scene being an indoor one and the animal that reacts violently to Damien's presence being a gorilla trying to break out (still a type of primate, though, and a fake-looking in some shots, at that), Damien riding a scooter instead of a tricycle when he knocks Kate over, the different place where Father Brennan called home, and the variation on Jennings' death, which is still a beheading of some sort.

What I find more disconcerting about the remake's production is that it feels like it was nothing more than an attempt to create a clever marketing strategy that would bring people in. The "666" was not only all over the posters and other advertisements but also corresponded to the film's very release, which was on June 6th, 2006 (which was on a Tuesday, no less). 20th Century Fox must have seen that the year 2006 was coming up and, remembering that they had The Omen, decided to slap this remake together and get it out on that date, which is probably why they didn't change much because that would have taken longer and they could have missed it. Hell, they even had theaters begin playing it at 6:06 in the morning, and Fox even claimed that the film's initial gross was exactly $12,633,666, which they later admitted was a joke. Ha, ha, ha! Funny! But, unfortunately, this shallow marketing strategy worked, as the movie was not only quite a hit worldwide but also broke the record for the highest Tuesday opening gross (I didn't know there was such a record, seeing as how movies are almost never released on Tuesday and, in that case, I'm guessing it wasn't a hard one to break). And yes, I know that Harvey Bernhard and the studio came up with an elaborate ad campaign for the original's release in 1976, with the novelization that was published before the film and the marketing that said, "Good morning. You are one day closer to the end of the world. You have been warned," but the difference is that before they got down to that part of it, they tried to make a good movie, one that would deserve the attention the campaign would generate, whereas this was created specifically for the campaign.

One of the great things about the original film was that it was a tale of supernatural evil taking place in the real world. Richard Donner and company took a script that was originally full of over-the-top imagery and eliminated all that to make the story feel much more realistic, to the point where it would be possible to believe that all of the horrific things that happened were a bunch of coincidences adding up. The only scene in that film that felt over the top was the severely creepy Cerveteri cemetery, which was actually effective because it was such a contrast to everything else around it. This film, however, doesn't feel like it's taking place in the real world at all and feels more like a typical, modern day horror movie. For one, it's shot in that muted color palette that a lot of films, especially in the horror genre, tend to have nowadays and, as I've said before, I'm not a fan of that look at all. For another, the environments are often designed and lit in an overly-stylized manner that confirms that what you're seeing is anything but reality and, as such, the horror that takes place isn't as effective because you're expecting to see it in such a setting. The section in Italy during the latter half of the movie is especially egregious in this regard, with the white-blue lighting and the snowy environments such as the monastery in Subiaco and the cemetery making it feel like you're watching a Tim Burton movie, and when Robert Thorn drags Damien into the church at the end, the lighting suddenly turns lime-green, which made me wonder if David Fincher suddenly hijacked the movie (if he did, it would have been a lot better). Even the Thorn household, which was a typical-looking mansion in the original, feels overly Gothic in its architecture, looking like a church itself on the outside, and the inside has a cold, clinical feel to it, with the kitchen being almost completely white. Really, the only scenes that have a feeling of reality are some moments at the beginning and they're dispensed with very quickly. And finally, as if the muted color palette wasn't enough, John Moore employs that irritating choppy, kinetic editing style and handheld filming technique during some of the more frenetic sequences, like the attack in the cemetery and the climax, making it hard to tell what's going on at points (which I've heard he does even more so in A Good Day to Die Hard).

When I began this series of reviews and was looking for images from the original Omen, I inevitably stumbled across images from this film before I'd even seen it and one of them was the shot of this figure with a monstrous face, wearing a red robe standing behind Kate. I was baffled when I saw that image, wondering what kind of movie this remake was. When I finally saw the film, it turned out to be a shot from several weird as hell dreams that Kate and Robert Thorn have about Damien throughout the film. I'm guessing they're meant to be disturbing and horrifying but, honestly, they're just weird, pointless, and make John Moore seem like a less-talented version of David Lynch. The first one occurs after Damien freaks out when his parents try to take him to church. Kate heads up for bed that night after her husband treats the injuries Damien inflicted on her when he went berserk and in the next shot, she seems to be sitting in a bathtub. Then, she lifts her right arm up to see blood streaming out of a slit wrist and, shocked by this, looks straight ahead to see Damien standing there wearing some bizarre mask that looks as if it's made of wood and has nails in the ends of its head-strap (I look at it... and I have no clue what it means). After that, there's a quick shot of Damien laughing evilly while holding a hangman's noose, with a sudden, loud noise as Kate's eyes shoot open when she wakes up. The second dream occurs after Father Brennan tells Thorn to meet him in the park the next day (at an opera this time, rather than a rugby match) and you're immediately tipped off that something's not right when you see Kate brushing her teeth in front of a mirror in a completely white room that has nothing in it but a weirdly-shaped bathtub. You see Damien appear in the doorway behind her on his scooter but when she looks, there's nothing there. That's when she turns back around and closes the mirror in front of her, revealing that weird figure behind her (I think it's face is meant to be the skull of a jackal but I'm not sure). And the third and final dream is one that Thorn has in Rome after learning of Kate's death. This is just a series of surreal images like Damien smiling while standing next to an IV filled with blood, a quick shot of Kate lying dead against a wall, and that robed figure, with the most prominent one being a shot of an evil-looking priest dropping a bloody fetus (meant to represent Father Spiletto killing his real son, I assume) and the last one before Thorn wakes up being Brennan warning him to drink the blood of Christ.

Like so much else in this movie, the death scenes and other major sequence play out virtually the same way as the original, with a few tweaks here and there. However, that said, the first death scene is one that is completely unique to this version: that of Robert Thorn's predecessor in the Ambassador position, Steven Haines (Marshall Cupp). He's being chauffeured through the streets of Rome when he gets caught up in a massive traffic jam. As they wait for it to clear, someone dragging a manhole up ahead knocks loose a big piece of concrete that was acting as a makeshift parking brake for a gas truck and the vehicle begins slowly rolling backwards. At the same time, somebody tosses a lit cigarette onto the road and as Ambassador Haines glances at his watch, the truck slams into the blockade of cars, its tank getting sliced open by the plow of a backhoe parked right in front of them. Gasoline spills out of the tank and rushes in through Haines' open window, soaking him in it. He tries to escape but can't open the door because it's jammed against the backhoe and eventually, the gas reaches the lit cigarette, sparking a fire that blows up the gas tank and Haines' limo with it.

After that explosive first death, all of the others follow the original far too much for their own good. The death of Damien's original nanny (Amy Huck) is the same as it was before: she sees the black dog, climbs on the roof of the Thorn mansion, and jumps off, hanging herself by a rope. The only difference is that her body doesn't smash through a window and, throughout the scene, there's music playing, whereas the original did it without it and was much more effective. The same goes for Father Brennan's death: after meeting with Thorn and being rebuffed by him, he heads to the church, sensing an evil presence, as a thunderstorm whips up around him, and after climbing a fence to enter the yard, avoiding being struck by lightning, he finds himself unable to enter the church and is impaled a spear that falls off the church's roof. One difference is that it's telegraphed far in advance, with it already raining and thundering when he meets with Thorn, the sight of a mysterious, red-hooded figure running in the background, and weird, screeching noises on the soundtrack, and another is that, when Brennan reaches the church, you see the door suddenly latch itself from the inside, trapping him out in the storm. And when the spear is struck off the top of the church, it crashes through a sectioned painted glass before impaling Brennan (who, here, saw it at almost the last minute, not giving him ample time to get away), a piece that involved a lot of hokey-looking CGI. As for the fall that Kate takes, it's also very similar, with Damien knocking her over the railing, her grabbing onto it but eventually slipping and falling to the floor, causing her to miscarry the baby she's pregnant with. The differences here are Damien riding a scooter instead of a tricycle, Kate grabbing ahold of a hanging flower pot before falling and grabbing the railing, said pot falling and smashing rather than a fishbowl, Kate asking Damien to help her, and the fall being much higher. One thing I'll give Julia Stiles over Lee Remick is that she actually did a stunt here, whereas Remick refused and forced Richard Donner and company to use camera tricks to achieve the scene (effective ones, mind you, though, and more convincing than some of the green screen work here). As I've said, Kate's actual death is completely different and makes for the movie's most troubling scene, especially since Damien himself is involved in it. And Keith Jennings' death is still a beheading, with only the circumstances being different. As he picks up the daggers that Thorn tossed away onto a small flight of steps, the camera pans up to show some people working on the roof of the building next to the stairs, one of whom accidentally pushes a small mallet with his foot, sending it sliding down. It hits the top of a sign right above Jennings and knocks it loose, causing it swing around and slice his head off (something else that Thorn just barely reacts to, I might add).

The interesting thing about the climax is that it's like an abbreviated, faster version of the original, as if the filmmakers wanted to just get this thing over with (like me both times that I watched it). In fact, that's also how the zoo and cemetery attack scenes are treated: like John Moore decided to forget about suspense and make them very kinetic in order to get through them as quickly as possible (to be honest, I completely forget about the cemetery scene in this film until just now, which shows you how memorable this movie is to me). For instance, the bit of business with the Rottweiler, instead of a slow-paced, stalking sequence, is a short chase. The wind from the storm outside slams the door shut, awakening the dog and prompting him to come charging down the stairs. Thorn runs into the nearby pantry and to the end of the room, where the dog seemingly corners him. As he charges at him, Thorn opens a trapdoor that leads to the cellar, causing the dog to slam into it and tumble down below, with Thorn locking him in. The same goes for the other half of the sequence after Thorn learns that Damien is indeed the Antichrist. His struggle with Mrs. Baylock isn't nearly as long or ferocious and the way he kills her, albeit different from the original is ridiculous. When he tries to drive away with Damien, she comes out and attacks the car with a polo mallet, smashing the windshield. He then swerves around, smashing into a lamp-post, and heads for the gate, driving right at her when she appears in front of him, slamming into her and causing her to flip over the top of the car in a really silly-looking digital effect. The ending is the same, with Thorn being shot by the police when he tries to stab Damien in a church, him and Kate receiving a military funeral back in the United States, and Damien now in the care of the President, with the only difference being a brief shot back at the Vatican where the Pope seems to die, making no difference whatsoever since he and the others were only seen at the beginning.

What better way to round out a movie this meaningless and forgettable than with an equally unmemorable music score? As I've said before, Marco Beltrami is a composer who can sometimes come up with good music but other times, it feels like his heart isn't it and he creates some very generic stuff that you wouldn't be able think of even if you tried and, as you can guess, that's the case here. I can admire him for wanting to do his own thing and not just copy what Jerry Goldsmith did (making him the only person involved with this flick who did feel that way) but it's just forgettable. Except for a couple of pieces here and there, mainly those that do hint at Goldsmith's original score, like a piano piece that reminds me of the beginning of Ave Satani and a different, much larger-feeling version of that theme that plays over the latter half of the ending credits, it's all a bunch of droning, underscored themes that try to sound menacing and ominous in a typical fashion and all run together. I can remember sort of liking the piece that played over the opening credits but I'll be damned if I try to tell you what it sounded like other than generic, modern-day scary movie music. Again, I can't think of a more perfect way to end a review on a movie that did not need to exist in the first place.

All in all, The Omen 2006 isn't a horrible movie; it's just a pointless and forgettable one. There are good points to it in that it's competently-made, the production values are high, there are some good actors in the cast, like Mia Farrow and Pete Postlethwaite, some interesting twists on scenes from the original, and a couple of nice makeup effects, but, at the same time, the characters are nothing more than copies of the original and the actors are mostly unable to do much else besides go through the same motions and lines as those who came before them, Liev Schreiber is a horribly wooden lead, the film's visual style is overdone and it loses the powerful feeling of reality that the original had, John Moore relies on that annoying style of fast-paced editing and handheld camerawork for a couple of the more kinetic scenes, there are instances of bad CGI, some of the sequences feel like abridged versions of the original ones, the music score is forgettable, to say the least, and the movie is ultimately so much a copy of the 1976 film, especially during its second half, that it makes you wonder why they wasted celluloid on it. What gets me, though, is that there were some critics who felt that this version was better than the original, chief among them Roger Ebert, who didn't like the first film. To each their own but I don't understand that at all. And I'm also surprised that there was never a sequel to this film, given how successful it was, but it seems like a prequel to it is in the works as I'm writing this. I don't know how you can make a prequel to a story that, itself, is a prequel to the Antichrist's reign of terror on the Earth but we'll see. In conclusion, like Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, The Omen is a classic that I think will be remembered for a long time, whereas this soulless Xerox, like the Gus Van Sant film, seems to have already been forgotten for the most part and that's as it should be.