U.S. Ambassador to Italy, Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) and his wife Katherine (Julia Stiles) are just about to have their first child, on June 6th. Unfortunately, the child is stillborn. Mother does not know, but a local priest gives Robert the idea of switching babies, and he agrees. Five years later, the couple are in London, and it appears that thereís something not quite right with Damian ( Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), as Robert is approached by both an histrionic priest (Pete Postlethwaite) and a photographer (David Thewlis), with the former telling Robert that his son is the son of The Devil! Adding unease to the mix is Damianís new nanny, the externally sweet Mrs. Baylock (Mia Farrow). Cue the Rottweilers, decapitations, and suicidal nannies!
This remake of the 1976 Richard Donner classic worried me with its very existence. You see, the original ďOmenĒ is my all-time favourite horror film. It still works to this very day. So there was absolutely no need for a remake. This remake is so faithful to the original as to make one wonder why they even bothered. When the first film worked well enough, it just mystifies me why we need another one essentially just like it (perhaps it was the 06/06/06 thing, I donít know). At any rate, execution is the key, and this one just isnít as effective as the original.
Acting-wise, Schreiber may present a more down-to-Earth Thorn, but he hasnít the gravitas not the acting chops of the legendary Gregory Peck. In fact, he makes Thorn somewhat bland, really. Julia Stiles, meanwhile, is simply far too young as the frail wife. Lee Remick was fine enough in the first film, but here with Stiles it looks like Schreiber has robbed the cradle. The young, vibrant, healthy-looking Stiles also begs the question of just why this family needs a nanny to look after their (one) child anyway, when Stilesí character doesnít even work! And itís not just the actors who suffer. Composer Marco Beltrami clearly knows heís not Jerry Goldsmith, and so he goes hell-for-leather with a bombastic score. Itís fun, but ultimately not memorable work.
And yet whilst the film is infuriatingly carbon-copied on the one hand, on the other, the film is still somewhat watchable. A remake of my favourite horror film was always going to be watchable by default. Itís so damn similar that the things that worked the first time are still gonna be OK here, even if director John Moore were the worst director since Ed Wood Jr. Heís not, though heís hardly the equal of Richard Donner. Pete Postlethwaite repeats Patrick Troughtonís magnificently overwrought, crazy-eyed performance, with much of the dialogue in tact. Heís very well cast, and whilst not the equal of Troughton, itís really only because the role hasnít been altered at all. The same goes for David Thewlis in the David Warner role, bringing very much the same performance and acting style to the table. Mia Farrow does not, however, copy Billie Whitelawís chilling performance from the original. Instead, she opts for an externally sweet (but internally sinister) interpretation of the character, and letting her past dealings with Satan (ask your parents) do most of the work for her. Itís stunt casting, but effective stunt casting. The death scenes are also very much the same. In particular, the decapitation, my favourite horror movie death scene ever, is only slightly less effective second-time around than it was in the original. At any rate, itís still one of the best movie deathís Iíve seen in recent years.
A decent modern horror film, but if youíve seen the original, why bother watching a near-exact replica made by a less-skilled filmmaker and inferior cast?