Infusing movie theaters with a sulfurous stench 30 years after the original devil-child classic of the same name, The Omen, 2006 style, inhabits its own circle of bad movie hell. Or is it heaven?
We can pretty much guess the level of originality we’re in for right from the tired-ass Se7en-ish opening credits and the boringly brooding Marco Beltrami score followed by cataclysmic images and Book of Revelations stuff meant to spook us into buying everything from the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster and 9-11 to Hurricane Katrina as sure-fire signs of the upcoming apocalypse. (We would have included Justin Bieber, Karl Rove and Donald Trump in the mix but, hey, that’s just us.) All this Crypt-Keeper-worthy mumbo jumbo about the 6th angel blowing his trumpet and a comet that will bring “havoc upon the earth” gets pretty confusing, and it’s handled so clumsily that you’ll probably be laughing too hard to catch it.
Anyway, the doomsday vibe that director John Moore (Max Payne) lays on with a trowel gets reinforced by the arrival of glum, muttering Liev Schreiber who, let’s put it kindly, is no substitute for original Omen star Gregory Peck as a Rome-based junior ambassador who decides against telling wife Julia Stiles that she has just lost their firstborn in childbirth. We can’t fathom why Schreiber’s so protective of the information, though, because Stiles is so dead-eyed dull throughout the entire movie that she probably wouldn’t even notice. In fact, Stiles (in a role played to the hilt by Lee Remick in the original) is such a flat-liner that you may be tempted to look around the set for cue cards or a teleprompter. “It was everything to her,” sobs Schreiber in the maternity ward, hamming it up like hellfire when a creepy cleric convinces him to substitute an orphaned newborn in place of their dead baby. Problem solved.
In nothing flat, though, Schreiber’s boss’s limo explodes, opening up a job opportunity at the British Embassy h.q. – a handy place for the Devil’s spawn to plot world domination through politics. After a head-bashingly dumb home movie-style montage of Stiles and Schreiber watching their little monster grow up to school age, things start getting weirder. Not scary, mind you, just weirder, what with a demonic black dog hovering around, little Damien’s nanny hanging herself during a birthday party and Rome emissary Pete Postlethwaite stalking Schreiber with subway crackpot-style ravings like, “You must accept Jesus as your savior, Mr. Thorn … eat his flesh! Drink his blood!” Then, there’s David Thewlis (giving the only credible performance in the whole damned show) as a press photographer who flies off to parts unknown with Schreiber in a plot-stopping sequence that tells us what 90% of the audience already knows: that Schreiber and Stiles are the proud parents of the Antichrist-in-Training.
Unlike the 1976 Omen, though, in which little Damien morphs back and forth from wide-eyed innocent to monster, this Omen’s kid is pretty much a weirdo right from the start -- except there’s nothing scary about little Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick except his Three Stooges “Moe” ‘do. It’s probably a good thing that David Seltzer’s script keeps the tyke’s dialogue to a bare minimum because Davey-Fitpatrick’s idea of being menacing is limited to scrunching his brows and tightening his mouth. Hell, wasn’t Stewie from Family Guy available instead? “It’s not just my impression,” whines Stiles to Schreiber about their offpsring, “He’s strange … I must be a horrible person to think about these things.” Nah, just a horrible actress.
Happily, a suspiciously Botox-y Mia Farrow – a long way from her iconic Rosemary’s Baby glory days -- drops in as the kid’s nanny to bat her eyes and recite her dialogue in that sing-song-y tra-la-la voice that must have inspired Gwyneth Paltrow. Playing an obviously batshit-crazy bride of Satan, Farrow, whom Schreiber and Stiles hire on the spot pretty much without any credentials, camps it up madly and even gets to play an hilarious fight scene in which Schreiber rouses himself out of his torpor to repeatedly throw her against the wall, perhaps as punishment for annoying the hell out of audiences in A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy and Arthur and the Invisibles.
An even funnier moment of divine retribution, though, comes when Damien rides his scooter straight into Julia Stiles and sends her tumbling backwards over a railing and crash-landing three floors below while red petals falling in slow motion around her. You may find yourself booing when Stiles actually survives with barely a hitch. And, by the time this Omen crashes and burns to its totally illogical, fire-and-brimstone conclusion, the only possible conclusion you can reach about why this movie was made at all is that the Devil made them do it.