Saturday, June 10, 2006

Movies: The Omen (2006)

Genres: Horror, remakes
Director: John Moore
Cast: Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber, Mia Farrow, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick
Verdict: &&&&

"There's something about Damian …" I had a good chuckle that the local theater was playing the remake of The Omen on a screen next door to The Da Vinci Code, a movie that demonstrates just how much a seemingly innocuous piece of entertainment can stir the public. People made uneasy by that Hollywood thriller would likely be just as disturbed by this surprisingly strong remake, which, in its opening scenes, makes a case for imminent Armageddon with footage of the devastated World Trade Center, the doomed space shuttle Columbia and hurricane/tsunami flooding as examples of apocalyptic biblical verse. As in Gus Van Sant's 1998 Psycho homage, director John Moore (Flight of the Phoenix, Behind Enemy Lines) has created a movie that, at times, feels like a scene-for-scene reshoot of the original, which I never considered a classic of the genre. In his first foray into horror, Moore aims high with a sterling cast and accomplishes some striking visuals that serve to heighten the tension throughout. In the notorious birthday party scene, after the nanny shouts, "Look Damian! It's all for you Damian!" and hangs herself, I love the way the camera follows the slow decent of one of her stray shoes, which crashes into a table of bottles and crystal, shattering the frozen moment of stunned silence. The death scenes, including an impaling and a gruesome decapitation, are gleefully over the top and completely satisfying. The casting of Mia Farrow was a stroke of genius; she oozes an undercurrent of evil as the solicitous nanny who mysteriously appears at an opportune moment. Her facial expression as she hand feeds strawberries to the devil child speaks more than any line of dialogue in the recent remake of The Amityville Horror. More debatable is the casting of Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, who, as Damian, offers more blank stares than the nuanced menace for which the role screams. My least favorite parts of the original come late in the movie when ambassador Robert Thorne (here played capably by Liev Schreiber of The Manchurian Candidate), Damian's father, tries to learn what really happened on the fateful night of his son's birth. Although the snowy scenes in Italy have a surreal, otherworldly quality, the remake loses some steam here, as well – this story works best when Damian is up to his antics, such as tipping his mother off the balcony's ledge. On the whole, though, Moore deftly weaves quieter moments of creeping dread with jump scares that aren't insulting, creating a movie that can appeal to both teen audiences and the thinking horror fan without selling its soul.

// Linkage // Official site

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