John Moore's remake of The Omen rivals Gus Van Sant's Psycho both for its fidelity to the source material and for its utter pointlessness. David Seltzer, who wrote the remake, also penned the original, which means he's essentially sold Fox the same dreadful screenplay twice. Only this time, he's thrown in tasteless references to 9/11 and other recent disasters as a way of tactlessly contemporizing the premise. Otherwise, The Omen modernizes Seltzer's old chestnut by borrowing extensively from the vocabulary of music videos, jolting audiences with cheap but viscerally effective near-subliminal shock cuts, frenetic editing, and assaultive visual techniques.


In keeping with the MTV vibe, the protagonists are now closer in age to horror movies' core demographic of gullible, undiscriminating teenagers. Liev Schreiber fills in for wooden old Gregory Peck in the role of an accomplished ambassador who unwittingly turns his home into a way-station for Satan's minions when he and wife Julia Stiles adopt Beelzebub's adorable son and a not-so-huggable hellhound. Mia Farrow lends a smiling malevolence to her role as Satan's nanny of choice, in a deft bit of stunt casting that pays off. Who better to look after Satan's pride and joy than the waif who once gave birth to a devil-baby of her own?

Richard Donner's original Omen was too dour and leaden to work even as camp, but the remake boasts enough giggles and flat-out belly laughs to make most comedy filmmakers green with envy. Alas, only Farrow and a scenery-chewing Michael Gambon seem to be in on the joke, and the laughs are largely unintentional. Schreiber attacks his role as if he's still playing Hamlet on Broadway, while Stiles lends real pathos to her character's revulsion toward what she mistakenly assumes is her own flesh and blood. Actually, pretty much everyone in the cast is wildly overqualified, including Pete Postlethwaite and David Thewlis in key supporting roles. The only exception is pint-sized devil boy Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, who's called upon to conjure up a sinister glare that radiates the dark power of evil incarnate. The best he can muster is a mildly dyspeptic look that says "I'm almost ready for naptime."