The Omen is one of the all-time-classic horror movies. It boasts, among other things, great performances, especially from Harvey Stephens, the beady-eyed child actor who so perfectly realized Damien the Antichrist-child. The movie is also carried by some haggard, uncanny priests mumbling scary Biblical mumbo-jumbo, and rabid dogs wilding out, full of hell-fury. But, mostly, The Omen is considered a warhorse of the genre because it is one of the two defining archetypes for the “devil child” sub-classification of horror film, now a staple in “B” cinema. It is still one of the best, if not the best, but when other films imitate it directly, things usually turn laughably generic. There is really only room for so many straight-faced, borderline overwrought films in the lane The Omen pioneered, yet there have been hundreds of them.
After three Omen sequels and a 2006 nearly shot-for-shot remake, A&E has decided, as an offering to the Gods of the Reboot, to revisit the story of the Antichrist come to earth, Damien, in a new series. The result, produced by former The Walking Dead honcho Glen Mazzara, is much worse than much of the horror media that has taken cues from the 1976 film: It directly mimicks the film. It’s a string of references to the movie, tied together by a paper-thin overarching conceit. This frame actually opposes the chronology and concept of the film series, finding Damien as an aspiring activist/photographer in Syria, returning to New York to be confronted with a flood of repressed memories of his troubled past.
That’s right, Damien, you are the ANTICHRIST!, signals everything that happens to the new, scraggly, tatted journalist Damien (Bradley James) in the show’s pilot episode. One wonders why the guy hasn’t been accidentally killing people and summoning mad dogs from dark thickets of trees his whole life. Apparently, however, the Bible and various other related Revelations-y lore imply that all the madness is prophesied to occur at exactly this moment. The translation of scriptural predictions into the plot, as it was in the original film, is ludicrous; here, it’s just groan-inducing, paced in such a way that it couldn’t possibly be scary. Most of Damien’s flash-scare epiphanies come in the form of Instagram-filtered clips from the actual movie.
Basically, the whole episode seems designed to remind Damien and the viewer what happened in the original movie, as well as to explain why the concept for the show makes sense. Why? Well, Damien is 30 now, which is when Jesus was baptized, so you know, it’s a logical age for the Antichrist to start getting down to his dirty business. Also, Damien flying back from Syria is logical, since, as some creepy, crusted Catholic clergymen inform us, “the beast is to rise from the holy land itself.” Get it now? All right, of course.
Those same fellas, puttering about in darkened church offices, remark — after Damien’s hellhounds kill another preist — that they really shouldn’t have “waited so long” to deal with the fact that the Antichrist was walking around on Earth. And there’s really no justification for why he would be. The films took a bit of care to suss that out, but here, unpacking the lame Batman Begins-y origin story is the most important thing. A sinister, babushka-d woman — some sort of Satanic guardian angel — rips out some of Damien’s hair and we see the 666 birthmark, in a little circle. He checks it out in the mirror, as if thinking Whoa, why didn’t I notice that before? Well, it’s unclear what he’s thinking, and it’s not meant to matter. We’re just back on our Omen shit, getting mileage out of a old slow-Friday-night movie rental favorite, rebooting just for the sake of padding out your TV Guide listing with a new hmm-wonder-how-they-will-handle-that tpye of thing. The answer is: in the worst and most obvious way possible. Honestly, when it comes to Satan on TV, you might be better off with Lucifer, and that’s saying a lot