American diplomat Robert Thorn loves his wife, Kate, so much that he can't bear to tell her that the child she just bore in an Italian hospital didn't survive. A Catholic priest suggests that they take home a boy whose mother died in childbirth the very same hour. Kate need never know. Robert consents, and the baby is called Damien. So Thorn returns home with a son ... and a secret.
For the next five years, Thorn doesn't realize he's raising the Antichrist, though brutal "accidents," Kate's maternal instincts and stern warnings from a repentant priest all tell him something's amiss. Slobbering hounds and a deceptively sweet nanny named Mrs. Baylock show up to protect the little devil. Meanwhile, Jennings, a photographer who'd been shadowing Thorn, sheds more light on the strange deaths, inspiring the men to visit Rome in search of answers. Who was Damien's mother? What really happened to Thorn's child? And how does it factor into biblical prophecies signaling the onset of Armageddon?
While dishonest, Thorn's decision to pass off a strange child as his own is a selfless one born of deep concern for his wife. (Kate has already suffered several miscarriages and, he is told at the hospital, will never be able to bear a child.) Kate is quick to encourage and affirm her husband when he expresses self-doubts. Home video clips show the couple making sweet memories with their toddler.
After accidentally knocking a photographer to the ground and breaking his camera, Thorn apologizes sincerely and offers to pay for the damage. Stepping in as Damien's new nanny, Mrs. Baylock talks of healthy boundaries and voices respect for Robert and Kate's authority (Her words ring true—"I'm not the parent ... but a responsible substitute when you're out of the house"—but her actions ultimately don't.) Kate comforts and reassures her son when she thinks Damien is being ostracized by his classmates. Characters stand against evil, even when they don't fully understand the spiritual nature of the battle they're fighting.
Released within weeks of the controversial Da Vinci Code, this flick seems reverently orthodox by comparison. God is good. Satan is bad. The Bible is a trustworthy source of prophetic information. At every turn we see crosses, crucifixes, rosary beads, statues of the virgin Mary and other religious icons. Unfortunately, the Lord is never given the chance to protect or bolster the forces of good (who get eliminated like talentless American Idol hopefuls), thus leaving viewers who don't know any better to assume that the God of the universe is either asleep, uncaring or powerless.
Satanic images appear in books and disturbing visions (pentagrams, a goat's head, demonic faces, etc.). In the opening scene, Italian scholars interpret the trumpets described in Revelation 8 as specific tragedies ranging from 9/11 and the Challenger disaster to the 2004 tsunami in Asia. The mystical prophecies driving the story are a hodgepodge of astronomy (the arrival of a comet much like the star of Bethlehem, but on the opposite side of the world at 6:00 a.m. on June 6), Scripture from Daniel and Revelation, as well as a cryptic poem that explains how the Antichrist will rise to power.
In a Roman hospital, a duplicitous priest sells Thorn on the idea of passing off Damien as his own son by saying, "You must accept God's plan. ... God will forgive this little deception. ... On this night, Mr. Thorn, God has given you a son." A nun sells trinkets and necklaces sporting crosses and other religious symbols. When a priest dies horribly, a crucifix falls from his hand as if to signify its inability to save him. Jennings notes that there are "no atheists in foxholes."
More is made in this remake of Thorn's faith struggles. When Damien displays anxiety about visiting a church, Robert says, "I know how you feel kiddo." He asks Kate's psychiatrist whether he believes in God (receiving no answer). After being told by an old archaeologist that he must kill the boy on holy ground with daggers positioned in the shape of a cross, Robert goes on a tirade about religious fanatics "who believe arcane scripture justifies killing." He tells Jennings, "There is no devil. There is no God. There is only here and now and life," only to get a deadly wake-up call moments later that proves to him that good and evil are indeed at work. Another add-on is the decision to have Thorn recite the Lord's prayer in an effort to receive God's blessing while steeling himself to take Damien's life.
Father Brennan, a priest seeking God's forgiveness for his role in placing Damien with the Thorns five years earlier, boldly tells Robert that he must accept Christ. He refers to holy communion ("drink His blood"). Brennan has also wallpapered his flat with pages from the Bible and hung hundreds of crucifixes around the place to ward off evil. Sadly, the priest doesn't put confidence in Jesus' ability to forgive once and for all. He insists that Robert "accept" the Lord every day, and bids him a final farewell by saying, "You'll see me in hell, Mr. Thorn. We'll spend eternity together." Clearly, Brennan believes his destiny will be determined by what he did rather than what Jesus did.
Vicious dogs swarm Thorn and Jennings. Scaling a fence, Robert impales his arm on a spike. Mrs. Baylock attacks Thorn and bashes his car window with an axe before getting run down. There's talk of a fire that killed many people and left a priest seriously disfigured (his grotesque face is shown). Thorn drags Damien from the house, intending to stab him ritualistically.
Nightmares include shocking montages of sinister images, as well as Kate in a bathtub with her wrist bleeding. Zoo primates upset by Damien's presence lash out violently, shattering the glass of their cage. The boy goes ballistic when he nears a church, scratching and clawing at his parents, bloodying Kate. Opened graves reveal the residents' skeletons, including one of a child whose skull had been crushed.
With an efficiency that would make Tony Soprano jealous, the devil whacks anyone who learns Damien's identity or gets in the way of satanic schemes. Those gory hits include a man being decapitated in bloody fashion and a priest getting impaled by an iron rod while shards of stained glass plunge into his face. Police shoot a man dead. Damien sends his mother cascading over a balcony. Kate falls several floors, lands with a sickening thud and winds up hospitalized, in traction. That's where Mrs. Baylock finishes her off by injecting air into her IV line. A man trapped in his car gets bathed in gasoline, then set ablaze by a stray cigarette. Under demonic influence, a woman ties a noose around her neck and leaps from a high rooftop.
Crude or Profane Language
Except for an exclamation of "oh my god," there isn't any profanity until the final half-hour, which yields a gratuitous handful, including one "g--d--n" and two f-words.
Drug and Alcohol Content
A man with cancer is said to have been high on morphine most of the time. Jennings smokes cigarettes. A dying Pope appears to be nursing a glass of wine.
Other Negative Elements
The implication is that it's entirely up to human beings to thwart the plans of Satan. In fact, realizing that Robert is averse to killing Damien, the "wise" archaeologist Bugenhagen pleads, "Don't lose your nerve now, man. We're all in the cesspool if you do!" Kate discovers she is pregnant again and, fearful of spawning another child like Damien, tells Robert she intends to have an abortion. Although he strongly protests, it's for equally pragmatic reasons rather than moral ones ("We need this child," he says).
Here and there, The Omen version 6-6-06 improves on the atmosphere of the original. European locales. Creepy art decoration. Ominous ties to current events. But beyond that, this almost literal retelling of David Seltzer's story (with much of the dialogue recycled verbatim) will join Gus Van Sant's Psycho on the ash heap of pointless horror remakes. What's next, Jaws? Was this really necessary? Fans of the 1976 film would argue "no." Still others will see through 20th Century Fox's attempt to resurrect a franchise that flatlined in 1981 when Damien (played as an adult by an unknown Sam Neill) had a devil of a time stopping Christ's second coming. Rather, this seems like a grab for teen horror fans, which would explain the casting of young Julia Stiles and Scream's Liev Schreiber in roles originally played by Lee Remick and a graying Gregory Peck.
While director John Moore realized he might have some explaining to do, his biggest concern wasn't justifying this remake to rabid fans or cynical film critics. He worried about what God would think. Moore told Christianity Today, "I started to think, 'Am I p---ing God off?' If I believe in Him, and if I have to follow that notion, then surely I have to question whether or not I'm encouraging His wrath by making a movie like this. But then you extrapolate the theory further. The story of the film very much confirms the existence of a God by the reflective demonstration of the existence of the devil and evil. It is by default that we are suggesting—we're not even suggesting, we're outright saying—that God exists. So ultimately, I think the film is an emboldened reaffirmation of the existence of God, and therefore I stopped worrying about it."
I'll buy that ... to a point. Yes, the story suggests that Satan is real, evil and a force to be reckoned with. Yes, in this age of Da Vinci Code revisionism, it respectfully acknowledges the Savior and the prophetic authority of Scripture. Great. Perhaps curious audiences grappling with those fundamental issues will pick up a Bible or drop in on a Sunday morning service. However, if God were as powerless as He appears in The Omen, I can't imagine why they'd want to.
We see dozens of crucifixes—symbols of faith in God's sovereignty and protection. So where's the heavenly cavalry? Immediately after Satan deals the final death blow to mankind's feeble attempts to thwart him, the camera once again focuses on a carving of Jesus "helplessly" nailed to the cross. It will leave viewers wondering, "Where was God? If He's in control of the universe and cares about what's going on down here, why didn't He step in? Was he outclassed?"
This is an R-rated film with graphic fatalities and a pair of f-words. But as a Christian, my lingering concern is less about violence and language and more about the impotent image it presents of God. In the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "God is not dead, nor doth he sleep/The wrong shall fail, the right prevail." When the stakes are this high, it would be nice to see that He hasn't hung out a sign that reads, "Will be back in 20 minutes." Scripture is plain that He has the power and the desire to fight our spiritual battles. He has our back. And when all is said and done, He wins (Matthew 24:30-31). That's the God worth getting to know.