Liev Schreiber……….Robert Thorn
Julia Stiles……….Katherine Thorn
David Thewlis……….Keith Jennings
Pete Postlethwaite……….Father Brennan
Mia Farrow……….Mrs. Baylock
Giovanni Lombardo Radice……….Father Spiletto
As we all know this is a remake of a film made 30 years ago. So it seems redundant to go too much into the story, but here it is in brief:
Mother gives birth to still born baby, priest in hospital offers father baby of dead mother so that he can pass it off as his own and not tell the mother the awful truth. The family grows up happily together until the kid turns five and all sorts of evil start happening.
Let’s start with some compliments. This film definitely had some style, some beautiful cinematography and great use of color. There is red everywhere in this film; some may say too much. For example, there is a scene where Katherine is watering her Red flowers with a Red spray bottle while Damien rides around on his scooter with Red spokes and Red handle bars with Red strawberry juice smeared on his face. One can pretty much pick out some very intentional red in almost every scene.
Mrs. Baylock feeds Damien strawberries. Red strawberries.
Also, while this movie isn’t scary, it does creepy well. One night Katherine comes downstairs looking for Damien. She sees him in the kitchen with the lights off and a knife in his hand, which startles her. She notices he is cutting a PB&J that he’s made for himself. He quietly takes the sandwich upstairs without speaking a word to his mother. Trust me, it’s creepy.
Damien, the Anti-Christ!
And the death scenes are fantastic! The highlight of the film really, which I’m not sure is a compliment. Which leads us to…
Critique: While the surface of the film looks good, there’s not much going on underneath. The characters are flat and uninteresting and it’s hard to care about anyone. Also, the first half of the film is very slow and boring, spending way too much time trying to explain what’s going on. Did you know the events of 9/11 are one of the signs of the apocalypse? It’s good to know such a tragedy could be used to benefit this film.
The film also requires a little too much suspension of disbelief. The kid is the Anti-Christ, fine, but how the heck is no one figuring this out? Especially once people start dying left and right. And why don’t Robert and Katherine realize that their new nanny is in league with the Devil and only there to protect the Anti-Christ? It’s so blatantly obvious she’s evil.
Could you sleep with that kid in your house?
To her credit, Katherine figures out what’s going on, but Robert won’t listen. He finally gets some sense talked into him when a paparazzo, Keith Jennings, shows him photos of the people who’ve died with mystical images in the photos hinting at their coming demise. Keith sees the image in a photo of himself and is determined to help solve the mystery.
This is the most interesting part of the film, when Robert and Keith travel across Europe unraveling the mystery of who Damien’s real mother is and what can be done to stop Damien before more die. Then tension really starts to build and the stakes start getting higher.
The acting overall is acceptable at best. Stiles still hasn’t proven herself, and lord knows she’s been given a few chances now, and Schreiber, who has proven himself, really doesn’t seem to know what to do with the character. In fact, the best acting in the film comes from Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, playing little Damien. He does creepy really well. Minor rolls are given to good actors like Mia Farrow as Mrs. Baylock, the nanny, and Michael Gambon as Bugenhagen, but again, they are given very little to work with.
If you’ve seen the original, you’ve seen the remake. While it may have seemed a good idea to bring on David Seltzer, who penned the original, I think it hurt the film. It’s far too similar to really be worth all the time and energy it takes to make a film. It has all the elements that made the first one great, the suicidal nanny, the impaled priest, but it seems they’re just doing it by the numbers instead of trying to do something really new with it. And this time around we’re missing Jerry Goldsmith’s classic score.
That said, it is one of the better remakes (especially horror) to come out of Hollywood in recent years. Oh yeah, and the ending is great!