The list of unnecessary remakes is extensive, topped by Gus Van Sant's shot-for-shot colour remake of Psycho. In 1976, The Omen was perceived as just another demonic thriller to appeal to The Exorcist crowd. However, director Richard Donner's horror became an iconic film of its own, entering pop-culture through its 666 birthmark and infamous decapitation scene.
30 years later, a remake was ordered by Universal Studios to capitalize on the marketing gimmick of a 6 June 2006 (06/06/06). Director John Moore (no stranger to remakes after Flight Of The Phoenix) worked from screenwriter David Seltzer's original 70s script, resulting in a narratively faithful update. However, the reverential treatment ultimately cripples The Omen's redux from developing its own identity.
This is a remake in a pure sense. John Moore doesn't just take the concept and update it, he practically reshoots the 1976 original in contemporary times with modern filming techniques. The story and characters remain the same and all the familiar moments return (the church freakout, the zoo visit, the precognitive photos, the lightning rod death, the decapitation, etc.)
The cast are fine, although the leads are a little wooden. As Robert Thorn, Liev Schreiber tries his best, but he's too expressionless and sleepwalks through most of his scenes. Julia Stiles is better as Katherine Thorn, but her character doesn't really have much to do. Interesting, the remake's one genuine change occurs between these characters, in the form of a reversal -- Katherine now suspicious of Damien and Robert the skeptic.
Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick is the child actor who gets to glare from under a bad haircut as Damien Thorn. Frankly, original star Harvey Stephens was a more menacing presence as Damien, as he was blessed (cursed?) with a more devious face. Seamus has certainly perfected the icy stare, but he's too cute and normal. It doesn't help that John Moore's update spends more time away from Damien than the original did, with Damien absent for most of Act III.
The supporting cast are much more fun to watch. A trio of British veterans snare good parts; from Pete Postlethwaite's spooky Father Brennan, David Thewlis as twitchy photographer Jennings, to Michael Gambon's late appearance as "religious nutter" Bugenhagen. But it's Mia Farrow who really makes an impression as evil nanny Mrs Baylock, the pretty old lady who becomes Damien's protector. Farrow is an inspired piece of casting -- no stranger to Satan herself, having taken the title role in Rosemary's Baby.
Ultimately, The Omen remake is actually a lot of fun and contains some good moments (the rejigged decapitation is a treat, as is a murderous moment for Mrs Baylock in a hospital). If you've never seen the original, chances are you'll enjoy John Moore's update, but fans of the original could be frustrated with how uninspired it is. There are no real surprises or big changes, just amusing updates: Biblical prophecy now takes into consideration 9/11, the Columbia shuttle disaster and the Asian tsunami, while Damien has traded in his tricyle for a scooter...
The Omen isn't a terrible movie, it's just pointless and limp in key areas (the absence of Jerry Goldsmith's Oscar-winning music, for example). But, I can't hate it. I actually enjoyed watching it, even though familiarity with the original sucked all the fear out of the experience.
On a final note, the remake also ends with the same iconic final shot as the original... and therefore sets itself up for a sequel. I have issues with original follows-ups Damien: Omen II (1978) and Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981), so I'm actually hoping the remake can cut loose and spawn better sequels...
PICTURE: The 2.35:1 widescreen image is okay, although a bit murky at times and prone to pixellation.
SOUND: As you'd expect, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundmix is very good, with the horror genre particlarly suited to unsettling audio effects. The Omen has its fair share of surround sound effects that do a good job of placing you in the film's mindspace.
Omenisms: A documentary outlining how the movie was made. This contains a few interesting moments, but is generally pretty weak and boring, cursed with awful sound levelling.