When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.
Another angel with a golden censer came and stood at the altar; he was given a great quantity of incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that is before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. 5Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth; and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them.
The first angel blew his trumpet, and there came hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were hurled to the earth; and a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.
The cleverest things about this remake of Richard Donner’s 1976 film are its release date, which can be viewed as 6-6-6, and the ironical casting of Mia Farrow. She moves from the Satan- victimized Rosemary of Rosemary’s Baby to the role of Satan’s nanny in this travesty of the Book of Revelation. There have been a host of films mining the last book of the Bible for all of the horror their makers can find to titillate audiences who know little of the source. Virtually all of them lose sight of the fact that the book was written to strengthen the faith and resolve of its first readers so that they could withstand the fires of Roman persecution that its author saw coming. Thus the intent is twisted inside out so that it appears that evil is all powerful, with the forces of good impotent and unable to effectively ward off the power of Satan. The following includes spoilers in order to arrive at a meaningful analysis of the genre, so stop here if you feel you must see this wretched film—and if you do, don’t say you were not warned.
One can only guess that the distinguished cast accepted their roles for the money, as this remake will add no luster to their careers and reputations. Julia Stiles and Liev Schreiber are Katherine and Robert Thorn, residing in Rome, where Robert is the chief assistant to U.S. Ambassador Steven Haines (Marshall Cupp). Katherine is in the hospital to deliver their baby, but when Robert arrives, he is told by a priest that their baby has died. However, there is another child born that night, and whose single mother has died during delivery. The priest tells the troubled would-be father that by telling Katherine a harmless lie, this baby could be theirs. Robert should have said no, and thus have prevented the string of evil happenings that spring from that lie. Only later do we learn the terrible truth of what happened to their own child and the origins of little Damien, the never-smiling child that Katherine accepts as her own. I should report also that before the birth, there is a lot of hokum about the Vatican Observatory spotting a comet, and a cardinal reading from Revelations to the Pope, all to the effect that Armageddon is about to begin. We see worldwide calamities, including a brief glimpse of the Twin Towers afire and the devastation from Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami.
The Thorns move to London, supposedly to accompany Ambassador Haines as First Deputy, but when Haines is killed in a Satan-inspired accident, Robert is bumped up to the position of Ambassador, partly, he is convinced, due to his being the U.S. President’s godson. The “accidents” become more bizarre, beginning with the public suicide of Damien’s nanny at his fifth birthday party (talk about a party pooper!) and the arrival of his new one Mrs. Baylock (Mia Farrow). She seems too sweet to be true, and we soon see that this is so; one of her first acts being to bring in a large black dog so fierce that it makes Cerberus seem like a pussycat. By now Katherine is more than suspicious that her son is anything but normal. When she and Damien visit the zoo, and the animals go into a frenzy at the presence of the evil boy (the gorilla frantically smashes into the window several times), she becomes convinced that her son is evil—knowledge that brings her dire results. It takes more to convince Robert that his son is the Anti-Christ, including the bizarre death of a priest (Pete Postlethwaite) who had tried to warn him, the strange photographs of a press photographer (David Thewlis), and a trip to Jerusalem, where more nasty things happen.
The film ends, with Damien, standing next to the U.S. President and holding his hand, staring darkly at us. Then the first smile that we have seen briefly spreads across his face, but it is not the innocent smile of a child. The original Omen inspired a spate of films during the following decades in which evil wins out, or at least, is merely temporarily staved off, allowing for the seemingly endless sequels populated by Jason, Freddy Krueger, and their ilk. This is especially galling in The Omen because, as mentioned earlier, this so misuses (I could say “rapes”) the Book of Revelation. There is no hint in the film that the Lamb presides over the blowing of the horns, or that the calamities unleashed upon the earth are temporary, a means of cleansing the earth of those who have polluted it and killed God’s servants. The author shows very clearly that it is God, and not Satan, who is in control of events. Many who watch this film will know little of the source of its imagery, so it could be that church leaders might use the film, as in the case of The Da Vinci Code, on which coat-tails this film rides, as an opportunity to deal with this most mysterious of all of the books of the New Testament. As for those who plunk down their hard-earned cash to see this miserable film, a paraphrase of Revelation 8:13 might be in order, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth and its theaters…”
1) Read the passage in Revelations with which the film begins. Do you see any sign of the Lamb or the power of God? Yes, Damien does seem to become ill when he passes by the church, but does the church offer any effective power to the Thorns or to the priests to stand against Satan?
2) What are the images shown as signs that Armageddon is about to descend upon the earth? See Mark 13 for some “signs” mentioned by Jesus. Has anyone seen such signs before and believed that the End was about to happen?
3) Does the film ever hint at any of the lyrical joy that suffuses the Book of Revelation? Why do you think this is not possible when one focuses upon the horror of Ch. 8 and subsequent chapters?
4) Martin Luther believed very much in Satan and his power, allegedly throwing an ink well at him when he thought he saw him in his room. Yet do you think Luther would welcome such a film as The Omen? What remedy to Satan’s power did Luther offer? See his hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” especially the middle verses.
5) What do you think of the idea that it is good to commit murder in order to stop evil? A familiar argument? But in a church at the altar of Christ?!
6) Something to think about (not helpful while watching such a movie as this): The Book of Revelation teaches that the Anti-Christ will come amidst all sorts of disasters—but who are the ones that will be harmed? Do believers have anything to fear? (See Rev. 9:1-4, 20-21.)
7) How did you feel as Robert Thorn raised his dagger and prayed The Lord’s Prayer? A use of prayer similar to that of Silas’ after he killed the nun in The Da Vinci Code?
8) Two other films worth viewing and discussing in conjunction with this turkey: – The Apocalypse, a Turner Bible Classics film stars Richard Harris as John, imprisoned on the island of Patmos and writing of his visions. (See the short review when the Summer issue of VP comes out.)
– The Seventh Seal, a classic Ingmar Bergman film in which, against the background of the Black Plague, a knight plays chess with Satan.