Hey folks, Harry here... Gaspode has sent in before - and when you read the hilarious Q&A account that he witnessed, I think you'll agree with me that you would have given anything to have been there at that moment. The description, "Some people start looking around for something to throw." is perhaps the funniest, yet scariest audience description that I have ever seen written about an advanced screening. Oddly enough - the review is a mixed-positive - where he feels if you haven't seen the original, it may work for you, but if you love the original you might want to hold off for the DVD.
After attending Fox’s New York press screening of The Omen this past Tuesday I was reminded of an old joke about the guy who went to a brawl only to have a hockey game break out. I’m sure studio execs were prepared to be slammed by die-hard horror fans, or even a bit of Da Vinci Code religious spillover, but I’m not sure that anybody, including director John Moore who showed up for a post-screening Q&A, was prepared to see the evening degenerate into a nasty shouting match after a shot of the burning World Trade Center towers was used in the film’s opening.
Let me set the stage for you. After a screening of The Omen, Fox had arranged a panel with Moore and Professor Michael White, director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins at the University of Texas. After the moderator began with a very long-winded intro about ‘speculative theology’ and the relationship between Hollywood and organized religion, he opened things up with a question about the current fascination with the Apocalypse. After a brief discussion, the panelists were interrupted by an audience member who asked, ‘Why did you think it was okay to use an image from 9-11 to manipulate the audience’s emotions in your horror movie?’
Moore’s response: ‘I can see your anger sir, I can see it from here, but let me answer the question you asked. What happened on 9-11 was a world event, I understand that it’s particularly sensitive to New Yorkers, and what happened on 9-11 deeply affected me also. I happened to be in America when it happened, and it left a lasting impression on my mind, and the impression that I had when it happened was that we were in a very dark time, and it seemed to me to be the beginning of a very dark series of events. That’s why I put it in the movie
Disgruntled New York Guy: It’s a good thing that the movie is such a piece of shit that nobody is going to see it!
Lots of loud groans. Some people start looking around for something to throw.
Moore (talking over embarrassed moderator) You want to come back and actually finish your thought, or do you want to just be like most thugs, make your statement and then leave before anyone has a chance to talk about it? Can you expand on why you think the movie is a piece of shit?
Disgruntled New York Guy: You used something that hurt a lot of people, to manipulate our emotions; that’s what I think you were doing.
Moore: All art will manipulate your emotions. The point of art is to manipulate and stimulate emotion.
DNYG: Why do you think your movie is art?
Moore: We differ in opinion, but I’d like to posit the idea that what happened on 9-11 was a global event, and believe me, as an Irishman, it’s in the movie to signal to you that I felt as devastated. I felt it was as dark and evil a moment as you might have felt on that day.
At that point, the moderator hurriedly swooped in to change the subject. They took about another ten minutes of questions, but I sort of got the sense that the studio publicity people might have cut things short just in case another problem arose.
Okay, to tell you the truth, I’m not unsympathetic to DNYG’s point of view. I’m sure there are people who felt uncomfortable seeing the trailer to Oliver Stone’s upcoming film, and I still get a headache every time George Bush invokes 9-11 in a speech, which is, well, all the time. I’m not a big fan of using real-life tragedy for entertainment purposes, but not to the point where I have to act like a dick in public. I’ll let the rest of you decide in a couple of weeks whether Moore was right or not in using that shot in his movie, but to his credit, he was willing to discuss his position.
Thus endeth the editorial. Here beginnith the review. There are going to be a few spoilers coming up, but if you’ve seen the original 1976 film, you pretty much know all of them. If you haven’t, you’ll probably want to skip to the end.
As in the original film, The Omen focuses on Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) deputy ambassador to Italy whose wife Kathy (Julia Stiles) gives birth to a baby at the beginning of the film. Unfortunately, Thorn is told that unbeknownst to Kathy, the baby has died, but guess what? Here’s another good-looking baby, whose parents are conveniently no longer around, so all the grieving dad has to do is give the word and the switch will be made. Everybody goes home happy. And when the ambassador gets torched in a freak accident, the 34 year-old Thorn becomes ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Well, after a montage of home movies showing Damien as a happy toddler, things start to go downhill rather quickly. At Damien’s birthday party, the nanny hangs herself in front of a group of kids who will probably never go to a kiddie party again. The new nanny (a wonderfully cast Mia Farrow) Mr. Blaylock seems a little too protective of her new charge, as does the big-ass dog who suddenly shows up in Damien’s bedroom. Kathy finally begins to realize there’s something wrong with her son only to take her own fall over a banister thanks to Damien and his well-aimed scooter.
Needless to say, Thorn isn’t too quick on the update either, despite lots of people trying to convince him that Damien is actually Devil Boy. A local priest (Pete Postlethwaite) takes a shot at it, but is impaled on a scaffolding pole, along with a face-full of stained glass. A sleazy paparazzo (David Thewlis) makes some headway before getting decapitated in a Rube Goldberg (or Final Destination, depending on your age)-like fashion. It isn’t until a loopy priest (Michael Gambon) shows up near the end to provide a sermon on how to kill your demonic son in ten easy lessons that Thorn finally gets with the program. Just in time to get taken down in a hail of gunfire. Cut to state funeral, and the inevitable shot of innocent-looking Damien looking into camera, secure in the knowledge that a sequel will follow if box-office receipts are healthy enough…
So is the movie any good? Well, that depends on your age, I guess. If you grew up with the original 1976 film, you’re probably going to sit there with a hundred minute-long feeling of dÃ©jÃ vu. But if you’re coming into this movie fresh (in which case, apologies for the spoilers) you’ll probably find The Omen to be a dandy little horror film. Moore does a respectable job of directing, using a nicely restricted color palette with an occasional splash of red. The major death scenes (the so-called ‘big five’) have all been tweaked a bit, with the Father Jennings impalement and Jennings beheading done particularly well. But for my money, the best sequence takes place in the snow-covered graveyard, where Thorn and Jennings discover the truth about Damien and are set upon by a couple of less than friendly canines. It’s a beautifully paced scene.
As for the casting, Schreiber does a good job of stepping into the shoes of Gregory Peck, although like his cinematic predecessor, I kept wishing he’d get with the program a bit earlier. Stiles is a little too light for the role, but in all fairness, she doesn’t get that much to do. Thewlis steals his scenes as the photographer trying to save his own ass, or neck, and Postlethwaite and Gambon are wonderfully over the top as the scenery-chewing priests. For sheer lunacy however, the award has to go to Farrow, playing the demonic nanny Mrs. Baylock as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I think movie-goers are either going to love or hate the character, and to be honest, I’m still not sure myself. When the character delivers lines like, ‘Caring for children has been the joy of my life!’ you don’t know if you should laugh or get creeped out. I think I did both.
While Moore is obviously doing his best as a director, there are a couple of notable misfires, particularly when the director goes for the ‘big jump’ moments, complete with lightning-fast editing and a cranked-up soundtrack. Sure you jump, but it’s almost impossible not to, with Moore doing everything short of walking up behind you in the theater and slamming you in the head with a garbage can lid.
So once again, is the movie any good? Considering I spent the first half wondering why The Omen should be remade in the first place, I was pleasantly surprised by how well it was done. If you’ve never seen the original film, you’ll have a good time. If you’ve seen the 1976 version, go to a half-price matinee or better yet, wait for the DVD so you don’t feel you’ve wasted your money. And I’m interested to see what John Moore does next- as long as he doesn’t mention 9-11, that is.
Submitted for your demonic approval,