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  • Rev Horror

The First Omen

Dir. Arkasha Stevenson (2024)

A young American woman goes to Rome to join a convent in an orphanage but soon suspects that something strange is going on with the children.

Lemme say something right off the bat that may not rub some people the right way: I thought The Omen was just okay, highly overrated despite a few phenomenally impactful scenes that rightfully hold their place in horror history. Sure, the "all for you, Damien" scene was terrifying, and Damien's lingering and haunting smile at the end has forever seared itself into the recesses of my memory. The movie itself, though? It really says something that the biggest thing people remember about the film is that the production was supposedly cursed, because the rest of the movie is so godawfully boring. While the sequels would offer differing levels of fun, and the remake was one of the worst things ever put onto film, 20th Century Fox apparently decided to bring it all together at least one more time and deliver a prequel, showing how Damien ended up with the US Ambassador in the first place. This also makes The Omen part of Disney, which is an interesting development I didn't see coming.

Margaret (Nell Tiger Free) has recently come to Rome to join a convent, deciding to turn her life over to God and serve at the local orphanage to bring His light to the little children. After a night out that mysteriously ends with a bout of amnesia (likely cuz of all the drinking), Margaret begins to notice a lot of strange occurrences around the convent, most involving a young girl named Carlita (Nicole Sorace). When she begins to suspect the church has plans for the little girl, she seeks outside help from Father Brennan (played by the impressively deep voiced Ralph Ineson), who shares with Margaret that the Church is not as innocent as it may seem. Which is surprising, because if there's any word I would use to describe the Catholic Church, it would not be "innocent".

Are you there, God? It's me, Margaret.

Overall, The First Omen was an okay film. It's difficult to be impressed by very much, as it forecasts its own ending from very early on (several times) and even-not-astute viewers will likely guess what's coming. It's well-shot, to be expected from a major studio, and the actors all generally do a good job. By and large, however, it feels like a forgettable film, a movie that fans of the series will actually probably appreciate more than most but not one that breaks any new ground (and actually retcons one very memorable scene from the original in a way that some fans may find unforgiveable). It's a movie that doesn't stick out in any way, though it is a watchable film that pushes a few ick buttons while progressing the story of the unborn Damien while its at it.

The First Omen is a tale of two scenes. One I thought was truly magnificent and was an incredibly creative shot that I've never seen before and was impressed they were able to pull off. Margaret is kneeling before an altar, saying her prayers as the camera slowly pulls back to reveal a row of melting candles above her and another set below her in the foreground, clearly forming a set of teeth that surround our hero, with two glowing orbs above that resemble the eyes of a beast. It's a fantastic shot, one that literally dropped my jaw and impressed me to no end. Regardless of how I feel about the rest of the film, seeing something like this made the whole thing worth it anyway.

The second scene involves a creepy young nun who has been getting in between Margaret and Carlita, whispering things that certainly can't be good into the young girl's ear and trying to separate her from the nun who is trying to save her. After Margaret shoos her away from Carlita in a courtyard, creep nun heads upstairs to the balcony overlooking all of the nuns-at-play. Anyone who has seen the original can probably guess what happens next, and what follows is an almost shot-for-shot redo of Damien's birthday party in the original film. Down to the swing through a window and the repeated rocking against the walls, with one creative twist, The First Omen replicates the most impactful scene from the original while bringing absolutely nothing new to the table. That is, unfortunately, a good representation of the whole: it's relatively effective but contains no real surprises, failing to really add anything to the franchise other than a brief and generally non-scary exploration of how Gregory Peck found his little adopted demon.

All in all, it's not a bad film, but it's not a particularly good one either. It's watchable, though the slow burn will make it a boring watch for those that like their horror faster paced. It's not groundbreaking, but it's got a few jarring scenes (and a couple of particularly effective jumpscares) that may make it worth the watch anyway. Your mileage may vary, of course, but that's always the case with franchise movies that are done so long after the first installment. If nuns scare you, this one is going to be terrifying. If not, expect to get very little of the demonic activity (and almost none of little Damien himself) to keep your attention.

Who this movie is for: Religious horror fans, The Omen franchise lovers, Sister Act superfans

Bottom line: Nothing new, relatively blah, but a few good scenes that may make the whole thing worth it. If you're a fan of the franchise, you'll likely like what you find here, but if you're just a regular horror fan looking for a few good scares, you might want to find them elsewhere. It's a watchable film, but it's not one that's going to stick in your head for too terribly long. Thankfully, there are a few outstanding shots that save the day, the enjoyable crumbs to a rather stale Communion wafer of a franchise.

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