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 

No comments:

Post a Comment