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The Omen

Movies | It's hard to come up with a good reason why Twentieth Century Fox decided to remake the landmark 1976 horror film

Issue: "Bird flu," June 10, 2006

Most new films open on Fridays, but The Omen has the rare distinction of opening on a Tuesday. Why? Because this particular Tuesday happens to be June 6, 2006. As in, 6-6-06. Clever.

Other than the marketing opportunities provided by the opening date, it's hard to come up with a good reason why Twentieth Century Fox decided to remake the landmark 1976 horror film starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick.

Like the original, the new Omen (rated R for disturbing violent content, graphic images, and some language) is an honest attempt at "serious" horror. This is by no means a blood, guts, and gore special-effects fest, nor is it a wink-wink teen slasher picture. But it's telling that the few times the film stoops to stock horror-film shocks-which include a beheading and an impaling-are the few occasions when the film really registers. The result is a film more dull than frightening, and more hokey than thought-provoking.

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Liev Schreiber takes over Peck's role as Robert Thorn, an American diplomat in Italy with a young pregnant wife, Katherine (Julia Stiles). When his wife loses her child in delivery, Thorn secretly accepts another, orphaned baby as his own.

For a while, things seem to be going fine. Thorn is appointed ambassador to the U.K., and the surrogate child grows-into a creepy little boy who never smiles and who is, apparently, the prophesied Antichrist, the child of Satan.

The Omen tries its hand at mounting dread and ambiguity: Is Damien really evil or are Thorn and his wife just crazy? But the original has become such a part of film language that one doesn't need to have seen it to be shruggingly familiar with its storyline. A kid with coal-black eyes and a permanent scowl should never be named Damien.

On an intellectual level, the film appears particularly weak in comparison to The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which last year demonstrated that a horror film could deal compellingly with spiritual questions.

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