In our End Times culture it only makes sense that Rupert Murdoch-owned Twentieth Century Fox would reuse one of their own reactionary moneymakers to further stoke the fires of eschatological fear. The original Omen successfully exploited religious superstition for its scares, but the film’s Book of Revelations preposterousness has also long been overshadowed by Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist, the unjustly more iconic late-60s to mid-70s demonic child horror movies. If the almost entirely faithful remake works, then, it also leaves one slightly unsatisfied enough to want to (re)discover the Richard Donner 1976 masterpiece — and thus John Moore’s “update” isn’t entirely superfluous.
It’s also quite excellent in a workmanlike manner. Knowing enough not to disturb the original’s tense narrative build and haunting atmosphere, screenwriter David Seltzer and Moore stick with the elements that make the story of an American diplomat who unwittingly adopts the son of the devil genuinely unsettling. The violent, sometimes shocking set-pieces may be rushed and the actors (aside from a delightfully wicked turn by Rosemary’s Mia Farrow as Satan’s favorite nanny) less convincing, but it’s all there — the birthday party suicide, the impaled priest, the creepy kid — playing on your primitive nightmares like a perfectly delivered church sermon.
The only controversial addition is a prelude aligning the advent of the Antichrist to recent large-scale tragedies, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina included. Whether tasteless or not, accounting for such politically charged events in purely biblical terms evokes the Bushist doctrine of Manichean ignorance even more strongly than the simple existence of a millennial Omen remake. Perhaps the film’s suggestion that the Antichrist will use politics — in particular, the presidency — for his rise to power evens things out.