This remake of the 1976 horror classic The Omen is a solid psychological thriller. I should admit that I have never seen the original, so I can’t make a comparison. For opinions from that perspective, I imagine an Internet search will find more than enough.
I can, however, weigh in on whether I think this move should have been made, a question always asked about Hollywood remakes. My answer? Yes, because it offers the film to a new audience, of which I’m a part. And now that I’ve seen and enjoyed this new version of The Omen, I’m also interested in checking out the original.
For the uninitiated, here’s a rundown of the story. An American couple has a child, but it dies shortly after its birth. To avoid hurting his wife, the father conspires with a priest/doctor to pretend that a different boy, whose mother has apparently just died after giving birth, is actually their own baby.
Fast forward several years, and the child has grown to be one creepy little boy. His father, now a U.S. ambassador in London, and his stay-at-home mother, begin to experience horrific events that seem more and more to be associated with their son, Damien. The father soon learns from a different priest that his little boy may be Satan incarnate, and he’s warned that the boy must be killed before it’s too late. Not surprisingly, the father at first does not buy any of this, but as the events progress, he begins to believe.
The whole story is pretty outlandish, but then, it’s no more far fetched than the book of Revelation, with which it is associated. It’s easy to get into the story thanks to a mostly well-written script, an atmospheric score and strong performances from the cast, most notably Liev Schreiber (The Manchurian Candidate, another remake) as the father, and Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby) as Damien’s satanic nanny.
The Omen is classified as a horror movie, but it feels more like a psychological thriller, especially since the evil forces at work tend to be intangible. If you’re looking for a tense and creepy movie experience, pick this one up, turn down the lights and press play.
The Omen is presented on a single disc in 1.85:1 widescreen format. For the most part, the transfer looks very good, but unfortunately there are some major issues with compression artifacts in a few sequences, especially during the car explosion. These moments tend to be jarring, and they really shake you out of an otherwise immersive film. There are also some really great looking scenes, including the conversation under the bridge and the short scene in the square in Rome, which had a particularly remarkable panoramic shot.
The menus are animated and include sound, and their creepy feel fits the film well.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix is way more consistent, and it really serves to immerse you in the film. From whispers to terrified screams the dialogue is perfectly clear and the score is very well presented. All channels get plenty of use and directional effects abound. One moment worth noting here is the scene in the priest’s underground dwelling, which had me feeling like I was right there with the characters.
5.1 audio is English only, but 2.0 Spanish and French are also available, as well as English and Spanish subtitles.
The bonus material includes an audio commentary by director John Moore, producer Glenn Williamson and editor Dan Zimmerman, Omenisms featurette, Abbey Road Sessions featurette, Revelation 666 featurette, extended sequences, an alternate ending, and theatrical trailers.
The audio commentary is definitely worth a listen. These guys are enthusiastic about their film, and that brings a level of energy not found in a lot of commentary tracks. At the same time, they don’t shy away from important topics like why they remade the film, and why they changed things from the original. A neat feature of this commentary is each guy gets his own audio channel, with the director in the centre and the others to the right and left. This adds to the feel of sitting in a room watching the film with them.
Omenisms is a well-made making-of featurette. It runs about 36 minutes, and has a nice balance of traditional making-of content with more candid and personal coverage, including a lot of snippets of interviews or conversations between the cast and crew. What’s really nice about this featurette is it has a style that matches the film. Unlike a lot of these making-of featurettes, Omenisms does not feel like the creators took a standard template and filled in the blanks.
Abbey Road Sessions is another interesting featurette, which offers a 10-minute look at bringing composer Marco Beltrami’s score to life at Abbey Road studios. The score is such a strong factor in the overall effect of a film like The Omen, so it’s nice to get behind the scenes a bit with this one. As with the previous featurette, this one also fits the style of the film.
Revelation 666 is a TV special that I assume was aired before or on June 6, 2006. Since it obviously wasn’t created for this DVD release, it breaks the style set by the previous two featurettes. It’s a 22-minute “exposé” on the enigma of 666, also known as the mark of the beast. It offers no answers, but instead presents a mishmash of conspiracy theories and insightful observations on this unrealized prophecy. The interview subjects include a wide range of folks, from a professor of religion to a poker champion. Why a poker champ qualifies as an expert resource, I have no idea.
There are two extended sequences, each representing one of the film’s creative death scenes. The first is Father Spiletto’s impaling, and the second is the photographer’s beheading. Both extended part of these sequences equates to more gore than the final film version, and they seem less effective as a result. Neat to see, but the filmmakers definitely made the right choices here.
The alternate ending is similar to the extended scenes, in that it shows more to less effect. Instead of one cop firing a single shot, we see them all fire and fire, and then watch as the bullets rip Robert Thorn’s body to shreds. This version seems less real, and it removes any doubt about whether the shooting is an accident, which hurts the final message.
Finally, we get three theatrical trailers and a teaser commercial for the original film’s collector’s edition DVD. Nothing special here, but it’s nice to see these included.
This is a good remake of a chilling story, presented on a mostly excellent disc. The top-notch bonus materials definitely outweigh the few problems with the video transfer, so if you’re not pissed off that they remade this 1976 classic, I recommend checking this disc out.
Special Features List
- Audio commentary by director, producer and editor
- Omenisms featurette
- Abbey Road Sessions featurette
- Revelation 666 featurette
- Extended sequences
- An alternate ending
- Theatrical trailers
UpcomingDiscs.com » Blog Archive » Brain Blasters — The Cultural Anxieties in “Ils”
08/24/2007 @ 9:01 pm
[…] is actually part of a recognizable horror subgenre: Evil Kids. These films can be supernatural (The Omen, Children of the Corn), psychological (The Bad Seed, Ils) or even partaking of science fiction […]