WARNING: Do not watch Richard Donner’s original version of The Omen in preparation to see the remake. This smacks of the ill-conceived executive decision to remake classics (say, Hitchcock’s Psycho) by simply shooting the same movie with modern technology. At the very least, we are decades removed from the cultural context of the original, different times with different sensibilities. Tthrowing in tsunami and 9/11 references is typical of the cosmetic changes this version makes to the original.

The premise is rife with creepy sensationalism: the child of the devil is let loose on earth. With our culture’s fascination with all things apocalyptic and conspiratorial, from Left Behind to The Da Vinci Code, The Omen (cleverly released on 6/6/06 – note that I didn’t make the easy joke of “suck/suck/suck”) tries to capitalize as the right movie at the right time. It fails.

The problems for the movie begin early on with the casting of very young leads, Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles, as the unfortunate parents, Robert and Katherine Thorn. Liev Schreiber essentially walks through the movie. Julia Stiles (The Bourne Supremacy, Save the Last Dance) has a yeoman’s task in the thankless role of Katherine Thorn, given little more to emote than “I love my son,” “Things are weird,” and “I’m afraid of my son.” The fact of the matter, however, is that there are no characters you care about in the movie. An ironically cherub-faced Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, who seems to have never slept, gives a suitably blank stared performance as Damien. (Sadly, my favorite character was the boom mike that kept making it into half the scenes of our print of the movie, although) Mia Farrow, who knows from horror turns as the star of Rosemary’s Baby, is marvelously sinister as the replacement nanny, Mrs. Baylock.

Director John Moore, while doing an essentially shot for shot remake, still doesn’t seem to know what sort of movie he wanted to make. It was as if he took the tropes of a modern horror movie (add boo moments here, sprinkle in a few creepy images, then shake the camera randomly because now we’re having “action!”). Maybe this might have worked a few decades ago, but in a media-saturated age where horror movies from Hellraiser to The Ring have certainly raised the bar. The Omen degenerates into a slow moving version of National Treasure, forgetting that it’s the little things that make for a moody, atmospheric horror movie. Even the score detracts from what should have been the prevailing mood of dread, instead aspiring to an adventure thriller.

When the Jews return to Zion
And a comet fills the sky
The Holy Roman Empire rises
And you and I must die
From the eternal sea he rises
Creating armies on either shore
Turning man against his brother
Till man exists no more

You would think that a movie about the anti-Christ would be rich with theological touchstones. Granted, the perspective is from the school of theology that brought us the aforementioned Left Behind series. However, rather than explore what the significance of Damien as the anti-Christ means, Damien is portrayed as little more than a spiritualized Chuckie. The movie doesn’t bother to explore the mythos of the anti-Christ, choosing instead to count on the public’s awareness that “666″ is bad and saying that he’s the son of the devil and leaving it at that. There is no context to provide any true chills.

The movie begins with a lie, a conspiracy of clergy (“Give your love to the living”Father Spiletto (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) entreats the grieving Robert Thorn and with Father Brennan (Pete Postlethwaite) motivated by wanting to be saved by Christ for his role in the events) and well-intentioned but still deceptive husband, Robert Thorn. The Omen almost explore’s Robert Thorn’s search for faith. “I know how you feel” he remarks to Damien, noting his son’s unease when they pass a church. Robert Thorn is left with an Abrahamic dilemma of killing his own son (against the familiar philosophical scenario of if you had the chance to kill Hitler as an infant, would you?) even as Damien’s anti-Messianic consciousness quickly develops.

“For only when He is within you can you defeat the devil’s son.” –Father Brennan

The Omen counts on the type of mindset that spends its time in endless speculation about the identity of the anti-Christ and the minutiae of the Biblical end times. My eschatology is simple: Jesus Christ will return. What this will look like, I don’t know. The point isn’t to fret about the details of how or treat the book of Revelation similar to the work of Nostradamus. Nor is the point to paint scary scenarios in the hope of scaring people into heaven. I think that the point is to make sure that I join with God in His mission to be a blessing to the world while I am here.

“Something’s not right.” –Katherine Thorn

The Omen strains too hard, both staying too faithful to and being too self-conscious of the original. The movie goes for the easy jump scenes rather than a building a brooding intense creepfest, too reminiscent of Final Destination 3 than atmospheric chiller. The ending particularly breaks down into utter and complete nonsense due to its poor pacing and story-telling. A remake of a movie regarded as a horror classic should offer a new perspective, instead we have this.