As a general rule, unless you happen to be Peter Jackson, remakes are a bad idea. Of late, the horror genre has become synonymous with remakes though. This year alone has spawned a couple – 'When a stranger calls' and 'The hills have eyes'. Before the year ends, audiences will also have to endure revised versions of 'The Wicker man' and 'Pulse'. What's happening here? Is there a sudden dearth of ideas in the writing department, or is the revival of old material for new audiences an easy, safe, not to mention more economical alternative for the suits that run Hollywood: after all, the studio doesn't have to buy the same script twice. If the 'Omen' is any indication, it's most likely the latter. Although director John Moore strives at delivering a scare film using classier elements of mood and an aura of foreboding dread, and not simply modern day blood and gore, the end result is nearly the same as the original. Which begs the question – why attempt to redo that which does not require any improvement.
Hiring the services of the original script writer, David Seltzer, is further indication of the producers intentions to stray little from the source. The general plot remains the same; young senator Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) succumbs to the suggestions of a hospital priest and adopts a newborn baby after his own is stillborn, unbeknownst to his wife Katherine (Julia Stiles). The family moves from Rome to London after Robert accepts the job of an ambassador following the sinister death of his mentor. Five years go by and the family remains blissful, until at their son Damian's fifth birthday his nanny climbs up their estate and hangs herself in front of guests. Things go downhill for everyone from this point onwards as macabre occurrences rise with the hiring of a replacement nanny (Mia Farrow, totally menacing as Mary Poppins gone bad) and her breed of Alsatians. Katherine rightly suspects her son is not normal and papal predictions point towards him being the Anti-Christ. Robert is approached by a photographer (David Thewlis) whose snaps prove prescient in foretelling peoples death, and faster than you can say 'Final Destination 3', the body count starts mounting.
The film has about four frighteningly good scares (half a star for each!), and audience jumps are almost guaranteed. Schreiber, a terrific actor, is more believable in this version as a father than the then 60 year old Gregory Peck was in the original. The presence of a trio of respectable British thespians (Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Gambon and David Thewlis) also adds dramatic weight even while Julia Stiles struggles in portraying the conflicted, suspecting mother. Director Moore, who is on a remaking spree with this and his previous 'Flight of the Phoenix', must also be commended for making a film that feels almost classical and restrained when it would have been easier for him to simply up the ante with more contemporary violence. The film suffers however in the same way as the original did – the screenplays insistence on focusing on the deaths caused by Damian and not the human quandary of parents wanting their child dead. Complaining about this aspect in a review of a remake to a classic horror film is probably unwarranted, but considering that the team behind the revised 'Omen' had the chance to take a few risks and improve things and they decided not is opportunity lost. - Faizan Rashid