Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Omen: 1976 vs. 2006

Now before when I talked about Carrie from the same year with its own 2002 remake I didn't emphasize it as much even though it was the same thing I am about to do with The Omen. Now mind you this won't be a really heavy handed comparison as both versions of The Omen have a great many similarities except for casting and a few tweaks here and there. Comparing theatrical films to television films is a lot different because its an apple vs. an orange here its like comparing an apple to another apple except one is red and the other is green...see what I mean?

Getting that out of the way...we can focus now on The Omen. Most horror movies like going back to the age old battle of good vs. evil or more importantly God vs. The Devil. Again I am not an overly religious person but I am by no means an atheist or even a Satanist so watching a film like The Omen or The Exorcist does not offend me or make me question my beliefs. That said I can say I have loved The Omen since I first saw it for it tells a story without a lot of gross out like The Exorcist did and the reasons will be clear but first in case you have never seen The Omen...

What's The Plot?
In Rome, U.S. diplomat Robert Thorne rushes to the side of his wife Katherine after learning their newborn son has died just after being delivered. Kathy, as her husband affectionately calls her, does not know yet and a priest named Father Spiletto offers just the solution. Another woman has just died in childbirth leaving a healthy son behind and this child could replace their own lost child to keep Kathy from the pain of losing the baby. Robert agrees and the couple raise the boy they name Damien as their own son while Robert becomes the Ambassador to Great Britain shortly before his son's fifth birthday.

1976 The Omen trailer (SPOILERS!)

On the day of Damien's birthday, an elaborate celebration is marred by tragedy when his nanny hangs herself in view of all the guests. It does not seem to be a suicide as minutes before a strange black dog seems to have swayed the nanny into the act...a dog that only Damien notices with a little kid's wave. The press are all over the suicide and a priest named Father Brennan comes to Robert's office with terrible warnings and crazy claims that he saw Damien's real mother. Robert dismisses the man and as Father Brennan leaves, a photographer named  Jennings snaps a picture. Jennings, who was also at Damien's birthday party, develops his film and finds mysterious flaws in his photos that seem like...omens of bad tidings.

Robert and Katharine soon get a new nanny for Damien named Mrs.Baylock. From the beginning, she makes it known to Damien that she is there to protect him and soon she becomes a driving force between the boy and his parents. She brings in the same mysterious dog spotted earlier by Damien as a watch dog to Robert's great annoyance and questions Katherine as to whether her five year old son should go to an Episcopalian church or even understand the ceremonies. This one point comes into play for as soon as the Thorne family approaches the church, Damien becomes terrified and hysterical to the point where he attacks Katherine violently.

The attack and a visit to the zoo where Damien's very presence agitates the animals into acts of almost aggression starts to get to Katherine. Robert worried about her health sends her to a psychiatrist and finds out Father Brenna is not ready to leave him alone. He meets with the priest who tells him that Damien is the Antichrist...the son of the Devil and that he must be killed. Robert declares him insane and goes to leave but not before Father Brennan telling him about a town called Megido and the monk Bugenhagen  who knows the only way the child can be killed. Shortly after Robert leaves, an ominous storm arises and trying to seek shelter in a church...Father Brenna is struck by lightning and then impaled to death by a falling piece of iron from the roof. The news of Father Brennan's death is the least of Robert's concern because Kathy is becoming afraid of Damien and afraid of having another child like him-she's pregnant and wants an abortion.

2006 The Omen Trailer

When Katherine falls from the second story landing after deliberately being knocked over the railing by Damien, she loses the baby and ends up in the hospital. Robert begins to believe Father Brennan may have been right when Katherine begs for him not to let Damien kill her. Robert is soon contacted by Jennings so he can show Thorne the pictures he had taken of Brennan and Damien's last nanny-the mysterious marks indicate how they would die. Jennings decides to help Robert when it is revealed that he shot a photo of himself and a mark indicates that the photographer will meet the same end. The two men decide to head to Rome to get answers and Robert's final decision is made when he receives news that his wife is dead-Damien must die too.

Will Robert and Jennings be able to stop this demonic child or will hell come to Earth? Can Robert actually kill a child he raised as his own and if he can...will his own soul be damned?

Okay first we talk about what I enjoy from the original 1976 film:

2) Jerry Goldsmith's score is operatic and the Latin chanting is enough to send kills up your spine!

3) The acting is five star!! Gregory Peck is a talented, debonair actor who treats his role as Robert Thorne with the respect it deserves. His chemistry with equally talented Lee Remick is believable and sincere that I can connect with Katherine and Robert Thorne in all they go through. Billie Whitelaw plays Mrs. Baylock and boy does she scare the crap out of me when it calls for her character to do so!! When not being creepy, she seems like such a nice lady and that makes Billie Whitelaw a superb actress as she is also theater trained and a very sometimes overlooked and unappreciated actress.

The only real problem I have with this version is that the boy who plays Damien, Harvey Stephens. He is just too cute to be such an evil child but I guess you would want him to look misleading right? Even so he also doesn't act evil he just seems to act like any normal child behaving precociously and getting into mischief.

The 2006 remake makes only a few tweaks to the original story plot so mainly there are three points I can discuss:

1) Music: I miss Jerry Goldsmith's score because it effectively is chilling. Marco Beltrami's score is not as intense but it is still okay since he scores a lot of horror/suspense/thriller films.

2) Atmosphere: There is a lot creepy imagery trying to overcompensate in scaring you along with jarring cues. The original was less slick and not constantly ominous. Basically, the same as any horror film of this age-it lacks tact and subtlety.

3) Acting: I love Julia Stiles and having a slightly younger Katherine makes her very identifiable but there is something that kind of throws me off Julia. She emotes well in her facial expressions but she is a drama actress so that is kinda of her thing but she lacks Lee Remick's subtlety. Liev Schreiber is attractive its true and he has a nice speaking voice but I always seem to find Liev's performances as wooden-a handsome man just carved out of very pretty wood. Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick looks more like the son of the Devil compared to Harvey Stephens' portrayal but now it seems like they tried too hard to make him look creepy and when children creep you out...I find it disturbing. Since The Omen, he has not been seen in anything else because I believe they have now type-casted that poor boy.

The weirdest choice in casting though has to be...Mia Farrow as Mrs. Baylock? Now I love and adore Mia Farrow for all her philanthropic work in Africa and with children and her acting is phenomenal but...WTF ? I guess it is a reverse of the 1976 version where the nanny was creepy and the child looked innocent or maybe it's because she was in Rosemary's Baby where she played the mother of the Antichrist and now she kind of is playing "mommy" again...I really don't know. She doesn't do a bad job but really I don't want to picture Mia Farrow being creepy and luckily... I don't because the woman is such an angel.

So if I had to choose or give you advice to which one I like better: 1976 version of The Omen wins hands down!! The remake is okay but the gimmick of slick, horrific imagery and the weird casting choices  is enough evidence presented to make the original reign supreme. If you have not seen either version...check out the 1976 film first and then watch the remake and decide for yourself. If you have seen the remake and not the so now or when you get the time. If you have seen the original Omen and are curious about the already seen it.

Quit while you are ahead, my friend.

Next Blog: We step back into familiar territory...vampire films!! If you like vampires I hope you will enjoy my very special interview...with a vampire! Yes from page to screen...Interview With The Vampire.

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