Wednesday 10 April 2024


From a wimple to a scream.

(Nun)necessary retconned prequel that is a reasonably well-crafted film in its own right, just not a particularly effective or suspenseful horror film.

The Omen sequels became increasingly precursors to the Final Destination franchise with their host of supernaturally determined and often spectacularly staged death scenes. In first-time helmer Arkasha Stevenson’s prequel, the handful of reworked set-pieces, clearly intended as homages to the Richard Donner 1976 original, land more with a whimper (or should that be a wimple) than a bang. The exception being the “It’s all for you” hanging - now upgraded to include self-immolation. It does however feel as if Stevenson is either mildly ashamed or reluctant to include them at all but must fulfil certain tick boxes along the way. There is however some surprisingly upfront body horror in the shape of a couple of squirm inducing birthing scenes (including one brief – albeit MPAA compromised - memorably devilish gynaecological image).

The extended runtime allows scope to develop the relationship between Nell Tiger Free’s novice nun ‘Margaret’ and troubled teen ‘Carlita’ (Nicole Sorace) amongst the corridors of the orphanage in Rome, together with the cigarette smoking trampolining sisters reminiscing about good-looking milkmen! Screenwriters Tim Smith, Keith Thomas and Stevenson try to work a ‘twist’ as to who Damien’s mummy is really going to be – but as a mystery it’s a bit of a non-starter. The script does however serve up a tasty morsel by suggesting the Catholic church themselves engineered the birth of the antichrist to boost congregation numbers!   

But eventually the narrative must be nudged towards (ret)connecting to the original’s plot by way of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.  But belatedly cueing up Jerry Goldsmith’s masterful (Oscar winning) composition Ave Satani only serves as a reminder of the more proficient 1976 shocker. The narrative join-up is clunky and not only fails to connect all the dots, (particularly the original identity of Damien’s birth mother) but also throws in added unnecessary elements – presumably to add some more meat to The Second Omen – if there is one? 

To be completely fair, the 120-minute runtime doesn’t actually feel like 2 hours, and the build-up to the climatic final third is reasonably absorbing. Nell Tiger Free carries the film with a committed performance - even at one point channelling Isabelle Adjani in Possession (1981) - whilst the supporting cast, including Bill Nighy’s creepy cardinal and Ralph Ineson (essaying Patrick Troughton’s ‘Father Brennan’) provide solid dependable support. And any film covering this kind of pseudo-religious mumbo-jumbo subject matter that manages to avoid giving a multiplex crowd cause for unintended sniggers or titters for 2 hours is an achievement in itself (albeit in a mid-afternoon audience of approx. a dozen patrons at my screening).   

The main issue is the contractual obligation to tie things up - and as we already know the outcome - it’s somewhat of an anti-(Christ)climax.

Still, there are sufficient good omens in the crafting of this prequel to suggest Stevenson is a director to watch once she gets to shape a work not so chained by pre-existing material.

***(out of 5*)

Paul Worts 

Wednesday 3 April 2024


“Just try not to swallow your tongue” ‘Trapper’ (Dan Stevens) advises podcaster Bernie (Brian Tyree Henry) as they start the psychedelic descent into the Hollow Earth in Adam Wingardium Leviosa’s Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. Clearly Wingard’s tongue is firmly in cheek in this unabashedly goofy sprawling follow up to his neon-drenched 2021 helmed Godzilla vs. Kong.


The ’vs.’ in 2021’s title may now have been replaced with ‘x’ to signify a truce between the two titular titans, but it’s a fragile pact at best, briefly crumbling in a rumble in Egypt (due to Godzilla misinterpreting Kong’s request for assistance) which reduces the pyramids of Giza to rubble. Thankfully, our favourite giant lizard is brought to his senses by Mothra, swooping in like an ethereal WWE referee and re-focusing our heroic monster on the prime objective.


Even more Kong-centric than 2021’s ‘vs.’– albeit largely explained by the fact the majority of the action this time around is centred in (and below) the Hollow Earth - Godzilla is at times regulated to quick ‘travelogue’ updates. One minute he is seen stomping up the Tiber in Rome, the next he’s topping up his atomic radiation in the Arctic. Meanwhile, back in the Hollow Earth, Kong is being led into a monster fish-infested lake by deceptively cute wide-eyed mini-Kong Suko in true Smeagol / Gollum style before encountering the evil Skar King and his ancient ice-powered titan Shimo. Being so expressive and a gentle giant (at times), there’s always fun to be had with Kong, none more so than when he's suffering from toothache, resulting in kaiju veterinarian ‘Trapper’ (Dan Stevens – a barmy but welcome addition to the cast) abseiling into his jaw to perform dental surgery, or upgrading a frost-bitten arm with a power-glove.


The eventual titan showdown is truly spectacular, offering up the gloriously gonzo sight of Godzilla et al spiralling through an anti-gravity vortex in the Hollow Earth before surfacing on a beach in Rio de Janeiro which is frankly worth the price of IMAX admission alone.


Back in 2021, thanks to a certain global pandemic, UK kaiju aficionados were deprived of a cinematic release of the previous heavyweight titan set-to. Thankfully Wingard’s second outing playing in the kaiju sandpit is available in full expanded IMAX glory (and even post-converted 3D if you really want it). Sure, it is wildly uneven, skittering all over the place (and the world), but it still delivers terrific giant monster mayhem and fun. No, it is not Godzilla Minus One (a superb achievement in it’s own right and a deserved Oscar winner to boot), but then it is not remotely trying to be that film either. There is however plenty of room in the kaiju cinematic universe for both types of interpretations, and judging by the box office figures coming in, audiences across the globe are more than happy to find more room for Godzilla and Kong to grace IMAX screens once again. 

(Polite request: please can we have a more Godzilla-focused outing next time Adam?).   

**** (OUT OF 5*)

Paul Worts