Remake β the very word is able to send chills down the spinal cords of many a horror movie fan but it seems to be the word of the hour as Hollywood apparently can't get enough of them. Some have been good (The Hills Have Eyes and Dawn Of The Dead), others not so good (The Fog) but most of them are simply rather unremarkable and it is in this category that the 2006 remake of The Omen can be safely squirreled away.
A diplomat named Robert Thorn (Liev Schrieber) and his wife Kathy (Julia Stiles) are expecting but when she delivers, their baby is still born β the only ones who know this are Robert and the doctor. To help relieve the couple's pain, the doctor offers to switch their baby with a living one who's mother died in childbirth and Thorn accepts knowing that his wife will never know the difference. A few years later and Robert's been promoted to Deputy Ambassador and the family is living in England and doing just fine. Robert finds himself in line for an impromptu promotion when a strange explosion in his boss' car kills the man and lands Robert his seat.
Fast forward a few years and the Thorn's son, Damian (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) is celebrating his sixth birthday with a party. Things don't quite go as planned and soon enough a lot of people affiliated with Damian start winding up dead. His caregiver, Mrs. Blaylock (Mia Farrow), starts acting stranger and stranger and a priest named Father Brennen (Pete Postlethwaite) begins to suspect something is up with the boy. One thing leads to another until the Thorns' life is turned upside down and they start to wonder if their little boy isn't really the Anti-Christβ¦
This modernized version of Richard Donner's 1976 classic follows that earlier film almost to a tee. There's very little in this film that differs from what came before it and as such, if you've seen the first movie (and a lot of you have) then you'll know where it's all going and how it's all going to turn out. This results in a picture that's actually rather dull despite some stylish direction and a few accomplished set pieces (many of which are just too familiar).
Despite the fact that the film is completely predictable it isn't a complete waste of time thanks to some clever casting. Schrieber can't come close to the screen presence that Gregory Peck had in his part before him but he does do a good job with the material and he's believable in the part. Julia Stiles does quite well, and although she looks a little young for the role she's pretty good in those scenes where she's required to really act and portray some heavy emotion. Davey-Fitzpatrick doesn't look quite as creepy as his predecessor Harvey Stephens (look for him in a brief cameo as a reporter) but he's close enough that most people won't notice β he is an eerie looking kid, or at least he's made up to be one here β and it works. Cameos from Mia Farrow and the whipping boy of Italian Cinema, Giovanni Lambardo Radice as Father Spiletto, are fun to see and both are actually fairly memorable in their roles here.
In the end, however, a nice looking film with good performances that tells the same story as an older nice looking film with even better performances (and a much more memorable score!) is still unoriginal. This is one of those cases where the remake sticks too close to the source material and it just isn't as good as the one that came before it. It'd be tough to top a Richard Donner movie with Gregory Peck in the lead so it's curious why the filmmaker's even tried rather than to branch out in a different direction from the original film. There are plenty of ways that they could have changed things up a bit to at least make the movie more than a carbon copy of a classic β sadly that didn't happen, and we're left with unimpressive mediocrity.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is good but it doesn't look as sharp as one would expect a movie that is only a few months old to look as the fine detail in the background of the picture just isn't as distinct as other recent films to hit DVD lately. Other than that, things look okay here. Some mild line shimmering is present but don't worry about mpeg compression artifacts or print damage as aside from a little bit of grain here and there the picture is perfectly clean. Oddly enough, however, there is some strange pixelization in some of the scenes that you can't help but notice β this does take things down a notch or two. Edge enhancement is kept to a minimum and color reproduction looks good (some scenes are intentionally flat looking to give the movie a more macabre atmosphere). Black levels look nice a strong and they don't break up at all and skin tones look lifelike and natural throughout. Not a horrible transfer but it definitely could have been better.
The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track is quite good even if some more action from the rear channels might have added to a few of the scenes nicely. Regardless, even if the mix is a little front heavy things do sound quite good here. Dialogue is clean and clear and there aren't any issues with hiss or distortion to report on. Bass response is tight and your subwoofer will enjoy the darker moments in the movie. A few of the more intense moments do show some good rear channel activity and when this happens everything sounds great, it's just that there are other scenes that could have used some more directional efforts that don't get them. Either way, it's a minor complaint. Things sound great here. Alternate dubs are included in Spanish and French and subtitles are supplied in English and Spanish. English closed captions are provided for the feature itself but not for the extras.
First up, as far as the extra features are concerned, is a reasonably interesting audio commentary track with director John Moore who is joined here by his editor, Dan Zimmerman and the film's producer, Glenn Williamson. The trio spends a fair amount of time comparing this film to the original version of The Omen and they point out what they tried to do to make it a different movie than that one. They also detail a lot of the camerawork and cinematography that was used in the film and cover casting choices and location shooting as well. Some detailed explanations of a few of the effects pieces are here as well as some decent trivia and a few interesting anecdotes. Not a mind blowing commentary but if you enjoyed the film and want to learn more about it, this isn't a bad way to make that happen even if it is really self-congratulatory.
Up next is a thirty-seven minute documentary on the making of the film entitled Omenisms. This combines a wealth of behind the scenes and on location footage with a whole lot of interviews where we hear from pretty much everyone involved in the film (though Radice is missing!) from the cast members to the director to the effects guys to the make up people. Throughout this documentary we get a good feel for what it was like on set and we hear how the pressures of having the project finished for its release on 6/6/06 started to bare down on the production. It's a reasonably interesting documentary that gives us a very 'matter of fact' look at what it would have been like on the set of the film.
Revelation 666 is a ridiculous look at the devil in modern times wherein a bunch of theologians, professors and entertainers discuss the significance of the most evil of numbers and how the devil is still in our midst. It's twenty-two minutes long and for the most part it offers very little to the film as, while it's touched on, it isn't really discussed in any detail. Instead, this comes off as little more than a strange promotional piece.
The Abbey Road Sessions featurette is a ten-minute look at the score that Marco Beltrami composed for the film by way of some interviews with him and with John Moore in addition to Buck Sanders. There's some interesting footage in here and some good insight from Beltrami who explains his motivations behind his work on the movie.
Fox has also included two extended scenes β 'Impaling' and 'Beheading' both of which are slightly gorier versions of two of the more famous death scenes from the feature itself. An alternate ending that runs for just under three minutes is also here but it doesn't differ all that much from the version that was used in the theatrical version of the film. Rounding out the extra features are two theatrical trailers for the movie, a teaser spot, and a newly made trailer for the re-release of the original movie on DVD. Animated menus are included as is a chapter selection menu for the feature.
The Omen doesn't really improve at all on the movie that it's remaking and as such, it brings very little of anything original to the table. It's not as horrible as some would have you believe, it's just that we've seen this before and it was done better. That being said, this new take on the story has some decent kill scenes and nice atmosphere and it's entertaining enough even if it is disposable. The transfer should have been better but the sound is nice and the extras are alright. This one makes for a solid rental, but it's pretty tough to really recommend it to anyone.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.