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The Omen

Year: 2006
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: John Moore
Producer: John Moore
Writer: David Seltzer
Cast: Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Pete Postlethwaite, David Thewlis, Mia Farrow, Michael Gambon
Although there's been little talk of it, 2006 marks a turning point in cinema history. It's during the American summer school holiday season of May/June/July that the Hollywood studios release their event movies. They're the films that cost hundreds of millions to make, comprise lots of big names, effects and thrills and theoretically make their budget back in the first week of release.

According to the template laid down by Jaws and Star Wars, they're the movies that - according to Hollywood economics - have to finance the bloated star salaries, drug-fuelled parties and studio budgets for the next twelve months.

And for the first time this year, every one of the blockbuster event movies (Poseidon, The Da Vinci Code, X-Men: The Last Stand, Superman Returns, Mission Impossible 3) is a remake, sequel or pre-existing property, as they're called by studios.

Movie critics traditionally spend this time of year bemoaning the fact that movies have no story and special effects replaces character and plot. But Hollywood gives audiences nothing if not what they want, and a huge part of the appeal of a remake, sequel or adaptation is in realising the possibilities.

Just how, we ask ourselves, would Ron Howard treat Dan Brown's mega-selling The Da Vinci Code? What would the world be like if Superman returned now? With the special effects technology of today, imagine how the killer tidal wave in The Poseidon Adventure look?

And in the case of The Omen, what would a classic, brooding seventies horror film look like if updated to modern times?

If a sequel or remake offers no point of difference, you might as well rent the video of the original, which is a lot cheaper. That's the entire problem with John Moore's update, released on the very marketable 6/6/06. It's not a badly made movie by any means, but the settings, premise, characters and even lines of dialogue are almost identical to the now-30 year old film.

Gregory Peck and Lee Remick's roles are played by Schreiber and Stiles, and every beat of the characters goes through the exact same arcs they did before. David Warner's photographer Keith Jennings is this time played by David Thewlis, the insistent and apparently batty Father Brennan played by Pete Postlethwaite. Virtually every major character meets the same fate they did in the original, and as you sit there hearing and reciting lines that are exactly as you remember them, the only question you'll ask yourself is 'why?'

Director Moore - who last gave us the Flight of the Phoenix remake - is ironically a pretty good filmmaker, with a good command of the mood of a scene. He's content to light, stage and colour the film in the same drab, dour mood as the 1976 version and the story is certainly enough to keep you entertained.

It's as if both he and the studio were terrified to deviate from a highly revered idea lest they fall victim to a commercial mauling. The movie itself seems to know how little room it has to move, adding a handful of cheap, leap-out-of-your-seat scares the original didn't have to resort to.

For a story about the ultimate evil, it needed to aim much higher than the other horror films around recently, and with such a dry and uninspiring result, the souls of humankind seem safe for the moment.

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