Six Six Sick

A numbingly literal remake of the fair-to-middling 1976 horror flick, The Omen is almost as big an embalming job as Gus Van Sant's utterly unnecessary Psycho. Van Sant's slavishness was at least in the service of something worth genuflection, though; this new version of The Omen is like a cult devoted to drywall.

The plot here, a hodgepodge of supernatural elements cobbled together to cash in on the momentum generated back in the day by genuinely good films like Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, involves a couple raising a small child they suspect of being the Antichrist.

People who get too close to the truth die grisly deaths; there are very few surprises and nothing remotely resembling a character to sink your teeth into (so to speak); and the whole thing is shot through with a pungent whiff of the apocalypse — a scent that never really goes out of fashion but that is more than ever on audience's minds these days (hence the remake).

Almost all of the original's narrative flaws and lapses of logic have been transferred over, complete with some cheap and clumsy jump-scare moments that would have felt tired in '76. The film does manage to raise its pedestrian material to almost acceptable levels by virtue of some classy casting — Liev Schrieber and Julia Stiles make fairly strong leads, while crème-de-la-crème Brit actors Pete Postlethwaite, David Thewlis and Michael Gambon show up in small roles.

But the juiciest bit of casting of all is Rosemary herself, Mia Farrow, who steals the show as the devil-boy's gloriously creepy nanny. If only the movie had the wit to capitalize on Farrow's presence or any of the other elements ripe for play here, The Omen could have been something worth talking about. Stars Liev Schrieber, Julia Stiles, Pete Postlethwaite, David Thewlis, Michael Gambon and Mia Farrow.

The Omen (R) opens June 6 at local theaters. 2.5 stars

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