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Case Number 10453: Small Claims Court

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The Omen (2006)

Fox // 2006 // 109 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // December 8th, 2006

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All Rise...

The last time Judge Brett Cullum watched a nanny fly out a window, she had an umbrella and a really nice singing voice.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of The Omen (2006) (Blu-Ray) (published August 13th, 2009) and The Omen Collection (Blu-Ray) (published October 20th, 2008) are also available.

The Charge

Damien: Did I scare you, Mommy? I didn't mean to.

The Case

As far as remakes go, you can lump the 2006 version of The Omen with the "it's not all that bad" camp. Nothing much new is added to the material save for recent events for the apocalyptic signs. The story is untouched with no new twists. If you're familiar with the original there is not much reinvention to dazzle you, but in a way that's fine. The Omen (2006) is akin to a stylishly produced cover song, perhaps a radio-friendly band redoing a Rolling Stones classic such as "Sympathy for the Devil." You appreciate the effort, and may listen to it a time or two. Still, the real deal will always be the original. Richard Donner doesn't have to worry much; his vision will be the one people remember decades later. Nobody is going to convince me that The Omen needed or demanded a remake. The 1976 masterpiece holds up as a ruthlessly taut mystery where the Antichrist might have already been born among us. Director and producer John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines) decided a reimagining was in order, and a savvy studio saw the potential of releasing a devilish tale on June 6, 2006. Entire ad campaigns were built around "06-06-06," and a remake was born from an advertising jackal somewhere on Madison Avenue. We all know the inevitable answer that The Omen (2006) will never live up to its source material. You could never match the acting, the Oscar winning score, or the gruesome deaths that seemed shocking thirty years ago. Does the son of the devil still have some potential to scare us now that the Satanic millennium has passed and not much happened?

If you've been sealed in a tomb since 1975, here's the popular story in a nutshell. In Rome, a diplomat is told his newborn son has died, but a sympathetic priest offers him a replacement child with the caveat he tell not a soul about the switch (even the mother). The desperate father agrees to the terms, and raises the boy as his own. The name given to the baby is Damien Thorn. As the mysterious offspring nears his sixth birthday, mounting strange occurrences begin to worry his family. Before you can say "spooky evil son of Satan," nannies are flying out windows at birthday parties, animals are freaking out in the child's presence, and the kid won't go near a church. A photographer and a priest hold to the theory Damien is the Antichrist, the son of the devil. Could this be true? Is he marked with the sign of the beast? And can anything be done to stop the unholy terror now that the apocalypse is only years away?

There are things to admire in this new version; in the spirit of the Satanic numbers, here are six good things about The Omen (2006):
1) The production design displays masterful use of the color red running throughout the entire movie. Sequences take your breath away with their beauty and abundant style.
2) The cast is up to the challenge of taking on the material. Liev Schreiber (Cotton from the Scream trilogy), Julia Stiles (Save the Last Dance), and Mia Farrow (Whatever Happened to Rosemary's Baby) make their reheated roles thoughtful and engaging. David Thewlis (Basic Instinct 2) and Pete Postlethwaite (Alien 3) provide ample support in their respective character actor roles.
3) There are trippy, Kubrick-inspired dream montages which provide scary spice to the images we've already seen. I love that Damien is seen as a master in these dream flashes, which is something not seen in the original.
4) The deaths are a little bit more over the top thanks to help from the always handy CGI work available to the recent team.
5) The pace matches the first film, and not much is tinkered with. There's a real respect here for what The Omen did thirty years ago, and it shows.
6) It's still entertaining as a horror movie.

Now for six bad things about this film:
1) Jerry Goldsmith's score is striking in the first version; the new work by Marco Beltrami (Scream) feels inadequate and barely there. There is nothing memorable about the music.
2) Child actor Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick (The Paper Mache Chase) was never told he was playing the son of the devil, but that can't explain why he overacts his part so blatantly. He never comes off as innocent, and that kills his role in the mystery which Harvey Stephens (original Damien, making a cameo as a reporter here) nailed in the first go round. This kid reeks of evil from the first time we glimpse him. He looks like a refugee member of the Addams family without any sense of humor.
3) Because it sticks close to the events in the first film, this one has no surprises for anyone who has seen the original. Camera setups and reveals are copied note for note in some passages, and that invites unfavorable comparisons (the likes of which Gus Van Sant's Psycho conjured a decade earlier).
4) The script is not an improvement even with current events to fuel the fire. What once was sparse and simple now feels ham-fisted and heavy. Good performers are sabotaged by the clunk of badly written dialogue and forced scares.
5) As good as the production design is, it makes the movie feel unreal. This works against the immediacy of the concept. It's hard to swallow this retelling as happening in our world today.
6) We've seen this whole thing before, and it was better done when it was rated R. The studio forced a PG-13 cut, and it doesn't pack enough punch. Had the gore we see in the excised scenes remained, the movie would have at least been as bloody as the source material. This is a neutered family film when it should have been gory horror.

And finally, six things you should know about the DVD:
1) The transfer seems dark in places. DVD Verdict was supplied with a screener copy, and it looks murky as hell. This is an intentional look, but it makes for a frustrating DVD experience. The final product on store shelves is not a standout visual presentation. Pixelation pops up in strange moments, and the entire film is missing the luster of such a recent release.
2) The surround treatment uses the rear speaker to good effect. The devilish design is supplemented with atmospherics that up the creep factor considerably.
3) Extras are plentiful with the standout being a free-form documentary called "Omenisms." It offers over thirty minutes of random thoughts from cast and crew. An entertaining (if far too self praising) diatribe in the commentary track from the film's director includes input from the editor and executive producer.
4) Don't get excited about deleted scenes and an "alternate ending." All we see is more gore for two deaths, and the ending provided is the same with added blood. They should have just put all this back in the proper movie and called it an "unrated" version.
5) The featurette "Revelations 666" is a look at the superstitions around the three six sign that could have been produced by bored Goth kids. It doesn't offer much insight. It's silly and totally nonessential viewing which has little to do with the feature film.
6) There's a look at making the unimpressive score. Oh boy! The composer at least sounds intelligent in how he approached the project, but it still doesn't make up for the fact it is inferior to the original.

The beauty of any remake is that the original will always be there. The Omen (2006) has its fair shares of ups and downs, and it suffers when compared to what came before it. Yet how could it not? The 1976 masterpiece was so accomplished that anything would pale in its long shadow. Check this one out for the gorgeous visuals, tripped out fantasy scenes, and a chance to see Mia Farrow become the nanny from hell (probably a long-standing fantasy of hers since Woody walked off with one of their adopted wards). Too bad the film has none of the soul of the original, but something tells me Satan isn't a fan of remakes. Damien has already walked the earth once, and his second coming is not terribly impressive. The Omen (2006) will be banished to rental hell where it belongs, while the original should be purchased immediately if it's missing from your shelf. Hell would be having only this neutered cover version.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 66

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 109 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genre:
• Horror

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurette -- "Omenisms"
• Commentary by Director John Moore, Producer Glenn Williamson and Editor Dan Zimmerman
• Featurette -- "Revelations 666"
• Featurette on Recording the Score
• Two Unrated Death Scenes
• Extended Alternate Ending

Accomplices

• IMDb








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