Remakes are a double-edged sword: Deviate too far from the source material, and the old fans get mad ... but if you stick too slavishly to the original flick, then, really, what's the point? If Gus Van Sant's Psycho remake taught us one thing, it's that a new coat of paint slathered over top of a well-admired screenplay is not exactly a thing of artistic beauty. And to say that John Moore's The Omen sticks too closely to Richard Donner's original is an understatement on par with "Michael Jackson sticks too closely to other people's children."
I know it's not exactly a brilliant horror film, but I hold a lot of affection for Donner's original Omen flick. It's a straight-laced and surprisingly clever occult thriller that gets in, gets out, and delivers a few stylish jolts along the way. It's worse than The Exorcist but better than The Amityville Horror, and it's a horror title I'm glad to have in my collection.
So I figured, as an experiment, I'd re-re-watch The Omen before heading out to see the remake. And it was this approach that allowed me to realize that ... they're pretty much the exact same movie. Anyone out there who, in 1976, paid money to go see The Omen should be allowed to see this new one for free. That's how stupidly the remake copycats its predecessor.
The plot remains the same: An American ambassador in London allows a mystery baby to join his family, and wouldn't you know it: The tot's actually the spawn of Satan himself. Flash forward a few years and we get a bunch of overwrought goofballs who discover the truth about Damien, only to die in elaborately gruesome fashion when the devil decides to keep his secret progeny hidden from prying eyes.
Hard as it is for me to believe, there actually was a new screenplay commissioned for this remake. The writer's name was Dan McDermott, and the Writers Guild denied him credit on the remake -- because it was too damn close to the original one. Truth be told, this new Omen feels like someone just dragged David Seltzer's old screenplay out of mothballs, hired a new cast, and tossed a few modern references into the mix (which might explain why the only new material found here deals with 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and a dead pope.)
In the Gregory Peck role we get Liev Schreiber and in the Lee Remick role we get Julia Stiles. Both fine actors elsewhere, but here they're sadly overwhelmed by the leaden pacing, the inescapable air of familiarity, and the simple fact that they're way too young to be playing these roles. (Stiles still looks like she should be getting ready for prom.)
In a half-hearted effort to bring some "new scares" to the mix, director John Moore inserts a few moronic dream sequences and some of those always-welcome "fake scare" violin shrieks. Oh, and there's one extra kill scene that's not in the original movie, one that exists only to explain why someone as young as Liev Schreiber could be Head British Amabassador Dude.
Look, here's what happened: About a year ago, someone at Fox was leafing through their calendar and realized "Whoa! Next June 6th is ... 6/6/06! Holy crap what a poster that would make! Someone get the old Omen screenplay out of the vault, hire a director, and get the thing finished in six months! We have a gimmicky release date to exploit!"
This theory explains why there's virtually nothing new to be found in the remake. They didn't have time to have an adaptation written, so they just used the old script! And that's just a huge slap in the face to the horror fans, if you ask me.
Plus, in the original Omen, the devil-child was sweet-looking, quiet, and kind of weird. (One gets the impression that the original Damien might not know who his father is.) In the remake, he's a mean-looking little scowler, which only serves to make the kid seem more ridiculous.
At least Van Sant's Psycho was originally ANNOUNCED as a "shot-by-shot remake," so while that was a failed experiment, the moviegoers knew what they were getting into. This Omen remake is an absolute testament to cheesy marketing, lazy filmmaking, and back catalog cannibalism. Plus, somehow, the story is a whole lot duller this time around.