My favorite character in John Moore
ís remake of The Omen is the Pope. I am not entirely sure which Pope it is, and it is more of a cameo role really, but every time the pontiff graced the screen, I knew why I liked this film so much. He first features in a brief conference scene. His cardinals (I presume) are concerned that a recent meteor shower is the final sign of the birth of the Anti-Christ, as predicted by the book of Revelations. These concerns are presented to the Pope in a multimedia display, with numerous screens airing a student film depicting scenes from the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia to September 11. In his second appearance, after hearing some disturbing news, the Pope drops his glass of red on the floor, while still in bed. I have never been to Vatican City, but I doubt this is how things go down. Yet, the filmís disconnectedness from the laws of reality, personified here by its treatment of the leader of the Catholic Church, got me. Richard Donner
ís original Omen was a pig in a cocktail dress, a silly story treated with undeserving earnestness. Here, John Moore tells it like it should be told.
Turns out the cardinals were on to something and the Anti-Christ is born. The unfortunate Anti-Joseph and Anti-Mary are Robert and Katherine Thorn (Liev Schreiber
and Julia Stiles
), the deputy to the U.S. ambassador to Italy and his young wife. When Katherine gives birth to a boy who dies just outside the hospital room, Robert accepts the offer of a priest at the hospital, taking in the childís place a baby boy whose mother died during labor and letting Katherine believe it is theirs. They name him Damien (cue choirs). After a bizarre explosion (so massive in scale it proves the devil doesnít pay for petrol) in which the U.S. ambassador dies, Robert takes the position and a promotion to the U.K. The family lives in British manor house bliss until, at a very public birthday for Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick
), his nanny hangs herself, shrieking, ďItís all for you!Ē From that moment forward the dangers of raising the Anti-Christ begin to obviate. The black dogs begin to bark, monkeys screech, priests prophesize and a very un-Doubtfire-like nanny, Mrs Baylock (Mia Farrow
), shows up to keep an eye on things. Article continues below
Moore doesn't stray widely from the path of the originalís narrative and most changes made are welcome. I liked seeing a bit of determination in Damienís face. I liked that Katherine was young and seemed to be suffering post-partum depression. A lot of the dialogue is admittedly laughable, and Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Gambon as over-caffeinated priests add to a sense of the ludicrous. However, this only compounds its The Omenís minor brilliance. Everything is overdone: Damien sleeps on red silk sheets; people at the party start running and knocking over tables when the nanny kills herself; an interview with an old crippled man is conducted outside in the snow. The horror scenes are equally flamboyant; Marco Beltramiís score may lack the originalís Latinized theme, but it kicks in to stunning and loud effect practically every time the lights go out.
Schreiber is good as the politician and after a shaky start Stiles communicates her anguish very well. But it is Farrow (next to the Pope, of course) who steals the show. Her Mary Poppins performance oozes subtle menace in every sweet grin and glittery eye. When she unleashes eventually, it provides for the filmís most exciting sequence Ė if you have dreamed for the day Rosemary would take on the Manchurian Candidate, dream no more. Though some critics might begrudge the film its directness, its loudness, perhaps its lack of class or cinematic restraint, I reveled in it. The story of Damien has always seemed a little stupid to me, and here Moore has matched the story with its telling. The result is fun, in a scary/jokey kind of way. I am not sure if John Moore is in on the joke heís telling in his remake of The Omen, but he tells it very well.