Exploitation producers used to come up with a title and a poster and then, as an afterthought, the movie. The folks who devised the remake of The Omen may actually have gone them one better: Their starting point might almost have been the release date (6/6/06). Which, if so, renders the movie a very expensive afterthought. The new Omen is slavishly faithful to the 1976 original, which means that we get the same salivating jackal and owl-eyed cherubic Damien, the same slow-moving, heavy-lidded atmosphere of liturgical Catholic gloom, the same Rube Goldberg impalings and decapitations, the same schlock rehash of The Exorcist, which was itself already a sensationalist reduction of Rosemary’s Baby.
There’s one moment that achieves the camp shiver of the original, when Damien’s nanny hangs herself at his birthday party (”Damien, it’s all for you!”). But the kid himself, played by Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, doesn’t look evil enough; he’s too passive to be a devious contemporary child. Mia Farrow, as the sinister new nanny, makes her glazed spaciness work for once, but it’s almost touching to see Liev Schreiber, as Damien’s ambassador father, and Julia Stiles, as the mother who thinks she gave birth to him (in fact, he came from the Satanic Adoption Agency), neuter their personalities in homage to the solemn wooden acting of the original. I confess that I jumped in fright at the shock cuts of devil heads punctuated by electric screams. The rest of the time, I felt like I was seeing The Da Vinci Code with slightly shadier priests.