Omen [1976]

If you can overlook its glaring redundancy, The Omen is a faithful and well-crafted remake that does adequate justice to Richard Donner's popular 1976 original. It's a completely unnecessary film, given that David Seltzer's original screenplay wasn't even rewritten (as would normally happen with a Hollywood remake), but when viewed with fresh eyes, or by anyone who's unfamiliar with the original, it retains most of the serious, intelligently plotted chills that made Donner's horror thriller a box-office sensation. It skews to a younger audience (of course), with Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles in the roles originated by Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. As newly-promoted U.S. Ambassador to England Robert Thorn and his troubled wife Katherine, they grow increasingly suspicious that their young son Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) may be the devil incarnate. An anxious Roman priest (Pete Postelthwaite) and a freelance photographer (David Thewlis, in the role memorably originated by David Warner) are equally terrified of this Satanic scenario, and Damien's new and eerily protective nanny (played to perfection by Mia Farrow) adds further evidence of Damien's malevolence, as Vatican prophesies of Armageddon are rapidly fulfilled. Director John Moore (who also remade The Flight of the Phoenix) offers a few minor improvements in suspense and gruesomeness (including a more graphically inventive death for a prominent character), but he's also hampered by the weaker presence of Davey-Fitzpatrick, who's not nearly as creepy as the original film's Damien. Otherwise, this copy of The Omen justifies its existence as a worthwhile diversion for stormy-night viewing.--Jeff Shannon

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