The Omen (15)

Horrifying... that anyone bothered
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The Independent Culture

Just what we need: yet another remake of a 1970s horror film. The Omen, which is practically identical to the 1976 version, stars Liev

Schreiber and Julia Stiles as an American ambassador and his wife who move to London with their adopted five-year-old, Damien. One by one, their associates keep dying in nasty accidents, until Schreiber starts to believe Pete Postlethwaite's priest and David Thewlis's tabloid photographer when they claim that Damien is, in fact, the spawn of the Devil.

The fatal flaw in the plot is the absence of any ambiguity about whether the boy is the Antichrist or not. When Schreiber and Thewlis go off on a globetrotting quest to uncover his origins, narrowly missing Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou en route, the audience already knows the truth, so we're just sitting and waiting for them to catch up with us. And this flaw isn't exactly hidden by the fact that, although the film plods along with the production-line efficiency of a TV movie, the deaths aren't in the least bit terrifying, and nor is the pint-sized protagonist. He tries to look scary by frowning all the time, and ends up looking like Paddington Bear giving one of his hard stares.

Perhaps we shouldn't expect anything better from a film which was knocked out solely because someone noticed that the release date, 6/6/06, is quite like 666 ("the number of the Beast", as all self-respecting Iron Maiden fans will know). We might even get a few chuckles out of the film's sillier elements, most notably the notion that monkeys can sense evil, and the notion that the action is set in London, when the camera crew obviously got lost in transit and shot it in Prague instead. But while it's tempting to disregard The Omen as a tiresome money-maker, it's actually more objectionable than the likes of The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, because of the shameless way it surfs the current wave of superstitious mania. It even announces, in its opening scenes, that the World Trade Centre attacks were a sign of the coming of the Antichrist, so apparently 20th Century Fox has decided that, five years on, it's OK to piss on the memory of the 9/11 victims, just as long as the resulting acrid whiff masks the stink of reheated horror movie tripe. What makes this exploitation especially tasteless is the message of the film which follows. The Omen proposes that when bad things happen, we shouldn't look for a rational explanation. The right and proper course of action is to blame Satan, trust in garbled "prophecies", and do our level best to murder small children. In other words, the Twin Towers footage is being used by a film which is one long advert for violent religious fundamentalism. Just what we need.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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