The real reason why certain films get an official Vatican hand-slapping (e.g., The Da Vinci Code) while others—especially religious horror—receive an uneasy nod ’n’ pass is actually quite simple. Could anything be more affirming of core Church values than a healthy dose of Satan-mongering? Ergo, the political subtext of The Exorcist: What is up with these vomiting, godless kids in the streets? Won’t the power of Christ compel them? And of Rosemary’s Baby: We warned you about those wolfish Manhattan types, impregnating you with the devil’s seed.
And so it goes with the ultrasquare The Omen, both the enjoyably silly 1976 original and this uninspired remake. Apart from a few murders updated to gory Final Destination standards, John Moore’s revisiting of the violent childhood of Damien Thorn (Davey-Fitzpatrick), en route to presidential power and Revelation, bears zero surprise. Those hoping the oddly high-caliber cast would miraculously redeem the material will leave frustrated: Tony winner Liev Schreiber plays the boy’s adoptive father with a minimum of conviction to justify cashing the check, while Mia Farrow’s trumpeted return to horror (as Damien’s caretaker) is restrained and thus wrongheaded.
The most provocative new wrinkle is a shameless introductory scene, a papal briefing in which clips of current events—yes, those burning towers, but also Katrina’s chaos—indicate the end of days. Some of my audience actually gasped at the insensitivity. But again: Isn’t this part of the conservative game plan? Far be it for evangelical horror films to point the finger at the actual human leadership responsible. That wouldn’t be Christian. (Now playing; click here for venues.)—Joshua Rothkopf