Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Decline of Western Civilization

Due to my own movie watching habits, which are pretty much all inclusive(meaning I'll give anything a chance), I end up watching a lot of movies I'm not particularly interested in. Just take a look at my Facebook profile, and check out all of my movie ratings. There are quite a few crappy looking movies that are listed under 'want to see it', even though I have no real expectations of greatness. And even the ones listed as 'not interested' I'd sit down and watch were it on TV some slow night. Sometimes these movies prove me wrong, defy all expectations and entertain me. The 2006 remake of the Omen was not one of those films.

Now, as a rule I am against remakes. If a movie worked the first time, I see no point in trying to cash in on that artistic success. That said, I realized recently just how many good remakes there are out there. Some of my favorite films are, in fact, remakes. John Carpenter's The Thing, The Fly, the Donald Sutherland version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I could go on and on, and probably fill up an entire post all about the good horror remakes out there, but the fact remains that for every Blob remake, we get a House of Wax or The Hills Have Eyes. I can't honestly call the Omen a huge step down, because about 5 minutes into the movie that old feeling, so familiar from the original film, began to creep over me; boredom.

I know I know, the Omen is largely regarded as a classic, and many of my friends will be upset with me saying I don't like the original, but what can I say? It just wasn't my cup of tea. I found it dull and uninteresting. I had been interested in seeing the remake, however, based on some fairly positive reviews from trusted sources, and I'm generally a fan of Liev Schreiber, who takes on the Gregory Peck role. However, whatever interest I had left me after the cliche opening sequence which charts the events that have led the Vatican to believe the end times are upon us. This scene wasn't that bad in and of itself, but it left me fairly blase about the rest of the proceedings. I will, however, express my amusement in the fact that Damien can only be killed by a ritual bloodletting over a church's altar. An incongruously pagan sacrifice in a film so invested in catholic minutiae.

Good horror movies tend to tap into our societal fears about the world around us, whether it's communism, nuclear power, or infectious diseases, and this is something the Omen recognizes, with 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and the war in Iraq all used as proof of the coming apocalypse. The problem is, the movie brings up these fears, and then erases them instantly by putting the blame squarely on the devil, and taking all human responsibility out of the equation. If, according to the movie's logic, God is great, and has a plan for us all, then what's the point in worrying? We'll all die, and live forever in heaven, right? The religious-horror films that bypass this problem tend to be very personal, such as The Exorcist or Rosemary's Baby, focusing more on the spiritual than the worldly. The Omen does focus more on the spiritual, but puts it in a very worldly context, which works against the momentum the film tries to build up.

Add to this some of the laziest CGI I've ever seen outside of a Sci-Fi channel original(I'm sorry, that's unfair... to the Sci-Fi channel), and the wasted talents of numerous actors who don't deserve this(Pete Postlethwaite, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon, Liev Schreiber). I was going to make some pithy comment here about how this movie is one of the signs of the apocalypse, but that would be overestimating this film's worth to a ridiculous degree. In the end it's a very middle of the road affair. But hey, maybe that's the true sign of the end of the world; when we start to allow sub par crap like this pass for entertainment.


Rik Tod said...

Oh, oh, oh... boy, do I have to agree with you about the original The Omen. Perhaps it's my lack of belief in "de ol' Debbil," but I have never given two hairs off a scraggly rat's ass for any of the films in the series, let alone the famed and acclaimed first one. (It does have a couple of well-staged murders, though...) Then again, my utter lack of faith has never hurt me in adoring The Exorcist, just as my lack of belief in alien visitation hurts my appreciation of Close Encounters or E.T. A good movie is simply a good movie, whatever you personally believe, and The Omen is not a good film.

I have not seen the new one, and I am working up the resolve to watch it. Of course, with the multitude of horror remakes out there these days, it's sometimes hard to play catch up. Especially when you dread the results. (Case in the point, the dull, unimaginative When A Stranger Calls remake I sat through two weeks back...)

Doesn't leave me wary of Rob Zombie's Halloween redo, though. That one I can't wait to see, but that decision comes down to an interesting and intriguing filmmaker.

Rik Tod said...

And your choice of great remakes, all four of them, are dead on. Some of my favorite films of the '70s and '80s. And The Hills Have Eyes remake? Actually could have been decent if it had kept the three things the first one had: some small dose of originality, and a great swinging pair of balls. The first film was Craven when he wasn't afraid to fuck with your mind and with accepted civilities. There was also a sense that what we were seeing was real, that the actors weren't going to walk off a set and simply return home. (To this day, I still can't get over the fact they kill E.T.'s mom...)

What did the new one have? More gore, and no sense of shocking discovery. It also worked in all of the bad editing and makeup clich├ęs that have drowned the genre in the last 20 years or so, and really give us no one to root for, so annoying are the main characters. At least they got the dogs right...