Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Shot for More or Less Shot

Films: The Omen (2006)
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on basement television.
I can’t say that I was excited to see the remake of The Omen. The original, despite being included in the book “The 50 Worst Films of All Time,” is a horror classic and far better than that reputation would have you believe. There are some wonderful moments in the original version of the film, not the least of which being a decapitation specifically filmed in a way that even the people who closed their eyes would be almost forced to see it. Remakes of classics don’t tend to go over well. It always raises the question of why bother when the original is so good.

And yet, here we are, with the 2006 version of The Omen. I can’t be sure, but I’d bet quite a bit that this was made specifically so that it could be released (as it was) on June 06, 2006 (or 06/06/06). It’s a nice bit of marketing that might honestly be the best part of the entire film.

Actually, that’s kind of unfair. This version of The Omen is pretty good. The problem is that it’s not pretty good if you’ve seen the original from the 1970s. The story is virtually identical, beat for beat and scene for scene. In fact, the writer listed for this version of the film is the same as the first version. I suspect that they used the same screenplay, or at least the same script. So, if the script is essentially the same, why is this version so much lesser than the original?

Bluntly, it’s the cast. This is not to denigrate the cast of this version of The Omen, because it’s a good one. The problem is that in virtually every case, it’s a step backwards. There are a couple of exceptions, but for the most part, the original is superior. Consider the following changes in casting:

Ambassador Robert Thorn—Liev Schreiber vs. Gregory Peck. Schreiber is a fine actor, but he’s no Gregory Peck.
Thorn’s wife Katherine—Julia Stiles vs. Lee Remick. Again, I have nothing against Julia Stiles. I think she’s often a better actor than she’s given credit for, but she’s not Lee Remick.
Bugenhagen—Michael Gambon vs. Leo McKern. Gambon is a fine actor, but Leo McKern is a damn legend in odd little roles like this one.
Photographer Keith Jennings—David Thewlis vs. David Warner. I genuinely like David Thewlis. He should get more and better roles. But David Warner is one of those guys who was a mainstay of ‘70s villainy, and seeing him in a good guy role is fantastic.
Father Brennan—Pete Postlethwaite vs. Patrick Troughton. Let’s call this a push.

The only place where there’s a clear up grade in the remake is in the character of the nanny. The original had Billie Whitelaw while the remake has Mia Farrow. And here’s the thing—Mia Farrow is hard to top in anything, but Whitelaw is only a step behind her in this role.

Again, I want to make it clear that I like the cast of the remake. I like every actor that I have named here. But I have to wonder what the point of this film was. It’s not unlike the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho that happened. What was the point of that? Even when there are some interesting improvements in this version (like what happens to the photographer), it still feels completely unnecessary. If you haven’t seen The Omen, this is a fine version to watch. There’s nothing wrong with it. If you have seen the original, though, there is literally no clear reason that this would interest you. It’s the same movie, and not quite as good.

Why to watch The Omen (2006): It’s a creditable version of the original.
Why not to watch: It’s a step backwards in almost every role.


  1. Mia Farrow was the best thing in that film as she was just a whole lot of fun to watch.

    1. 100% agree. Then again, Billie Whitelaw was pretty much the best thing in the original.

  2. I always found "The Exorcist" far creepier and more disturbing than the original "The Omen." I guess one could argue, though, that there's something creepier about the deaths in "The Omen" given that they all seem to occur in "natural" ways, i.e., ways that don't violate the laws of physics. There's a specter of fate or destiny that hovers over the proceedings; each death seems somehow inevitable, determined by the cosmos. Would you say "The Omen" was a major inspiration for the "Final Destination" films? Or are there horror films that precede "The Omen" in which fate/destiny is a deadly—and largely impersonal—force?

    1. I don't disagree with a thing here. I'm not sure of the connection to Final Destination in the sense that in The Omen, it's the forces of Hell and the Antichrist that is causing all of the mayhem rather than the personification of death...but there is a connection how the deaths occur. Both feature freak accident-type deaths that border on the "how would that happen?" so there may well be a connection after all.

  3. I'm not a big horror guy and don't love the original Omen, though I do like it, but as you point out the original had such an awesome cast that with the exception of Mia Farrow the new one held no allure for me.

    I could maybe (that's a BIG maybe) accept Schreiber in the lead though his energy is completely different from a Movie Star like Gregory Peck but in no way is the vacant and bland Stiles anywhere near up to filling the shoes of a goddess like Lee Remick.

    1. I don't dislike Julia Stiles as much as you do, but I do agree that she often comes across as bland. I rather like her in the Bourne movies. That said, she does have an odd quality to her, like I'm supposed to like her more than I do. Honestly, she never really makes a large enough impression on me to register a lot.

      You're really safe not seeing this version. Mia Farrow is the best part of it by a long shot, and that's with a pretty good cast overall. But it's a lesser beast than the original, and aside from one particular death that is far more Rube Goldberg-y fascinating, there's nothing here that's not in the original, better film.

    2. Stiles is adequate in the Bourne movies but her character is one of the big sticking points of the franchise for me.

      She is supposed to be a key veteran operative to handle someone with Bourne's problems and baggage...and it's HER!? A corn-fed American college Europe! Come on!

      It should have been a mature woman with the obvious experience to handle the problems he's dealing with, someone like Marie-France Pisier, Marthe Keller or even Catharine Deneuve. I love the films but that was a jarring note that took me out of the films every time she showed up.

    3. I can see that. I guess that ultimately, I don't think or care enough about Julia Stiles to get that worked up about her.