When the original version of this film was first released back in the seventies, it was all about the apocalypse. For whatever reason, religious fueled end-times mania was at something of a fever pitch in America. Hal Lindsey had a best selling book, The Late Great Planet Earth, that pretty much spelled it all out. The end was near and the signs were all around us in everything from the rebirth of Israel as a nation to the music of heavy metal rock groups like Black Sabbath and Kiss.
In Lindsey's vision of the end-times (which moved enough copies to make it the best selling book of that particular decade), it was all spelled out clearly in the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation. There was a coming Antichrist who was going to bring about the worst period of tribulation ever known to man, culminating in Armageddon itself.
Hollywood, knowing a good story when it sees one, then took the juiciest elements of that story and turned it into The Omen. Although the original film played somewhat fast and loose with the more biblical elements of that story, it was still a popcorn natural and audiences gobbled it up enough to turn the film into a franchise which spanned four movies.
So what better time for a remake than now? With things like Katrina, Iraq, and the Asian tsunami (all referenced in this remake) firmly etched into our collective consciousness these days, religiously fueled end-times mania has once again hit a fever pitch — this time around reaching to the very levels of the White House itself if you buy into what some political commentators are saying.
The only real difference is that yesterday's Hal Lindsey has become today's Left Behind. The good news is that as supernatural thrillers go, this is still as good a story as it was back in the seventies. And the remake stays pretty true to the original. The only real change (spoiler alert here) is that Kate Thorn actually does die here, rather than coming back to try and save the demon child Damien from being killed by his father.
They also one-up the famous decapitation scene from the original — delivering a scene where the hapless papparazi guy's head truly does roll.
In short, as remakes go, this is a damn good one. I would say my only major complaint with it is that Gregory Peck and Lee Remick were a hell of a lot more convincing as the parents of the Antichrist than the younger and sexier Liev Shreiber and Julia Stiles are. I also thought bringing Mia Farrow into the mix as a much more subtly demonic nanny than the completely over the top bitch of the original was a nice touch.
The DVD version of this also has some nice extras. My favorite of these was a really good examination into the end-times fever currently gripping the world called "Revelation 666," where they interview everybody from a guy with a 666 related birthdate to Left Behind author Tim LaHaye. This gave a nice background to the bible prophecies which inspired the story.
Oh and by the way, count me among the believers.