THE OMEN, CERT 15 108 MINS
You can almost hear the pitch. Wouldn't it be a great to idea do a remake of The Omen, the 1976 horror movie about the American Ambassador's adopted young son who turns out to be the Antichrist, and open it on June 6 2006 You know, 6.6.6., like the number of the beast?
Except, of course it's 6.6.06 which doesn't quite fit, which is possibly why the numerical reference has been dropped from the title, even though the opening day remains the same.
But, of course, you don't want to go to too much trouble just for a marketing opportunity, so rather than reconfigure the story mechanics, it's easier to just rehash the original scene by scene, adding a couple of variations so it's not complete plagiarism and tarting things up a bit for modern audiences.
And who do we have on the books who knows how to knock off a quickie remake? Why there's Brit director John Moore who rehashed The Flight of the Phoenix.
Ah, but wasn't that a complete bomb? Yes, but who cares, as long as the film makes the opening date.
And so it is we have this utterly pointless, plodding and mostly fright-free retread of a British made Exorcist cash in that, let's be honest, was never quite as good as nostalgia thinks it was.
Still, at least it wasn't plagued by the sort of hammy overacting that surfaces here in the form of Pete Postlethwaite as the priest who comes to warn the Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber), the US Ambassador to Britain, that Damien's quite literally a bit of a little devil (complete with a 666 barcode on his scalp) and that Thorn's wife (Julia Stiles) is in deadly danger.
Or a slumming Michael Gambon, who makes the most of his few minutes of screen time to gorge himself on the scenery as the archaeologist with the answers and a handy set of daggers for the disposal of devil spawn.
It does at least open with an original prologue in which the likes of Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami and, in somewhat questionable exploitative taste, 9/11 are all revealed to be prophecies of the forthcoming Armageddon and the birth of the Antichrist.
After that though it's business as usual with Thorn persuaded by a priest to take in a changeling when, unbeknownst to his wife, their own son dies at birth.
Making more of a meal of Thorn's elevation to Ambassador than the simple promotion in the original, once the family set up stately home in London (Prague actually), Damien's diabolic nature begins to manifest itself with a nanny hanging herself, terrified zoo monkeys and a bit of a freak-out near a church.
Or it would do if Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick was even remotely creepy. But no, unlike the original Damien, Harvey Stephens ( whose chilling apparent innocence was so effective he scared off casting agents, and now makes only his second film appearance in 30 years cameoing as a news hack), he's just pouty blank malevolence in need of a child therapist.
It gets worse. Aside from being unable to make up its mind whether the devil dogs should be German Shepherds or Rottweillers, the film suffers from Stiles and Schreiber's lack of chemistry and phoned in performances, dream sequences inserted in a desperate attempt to shock audiences from their sleep, and, looking as if she's done her own deal with, if not the devil, then at least a cosmetic surgeon, the unintentionally hilarious Mia Farrow who, Rosemary's Baby patently a distant memory, camps it up rotten as Satan's Nanny.
The interminable scene where she kills Mrs Thorn isn't a patch on the original. But then Farrow's no Billie Whitelaw either.
And it's not entirely bad news. It is visually good looking (a scene where Thorn's ferried across a river by a white hooded monk bordering on the lyrical), CGI means the decapitation scene is far more graphic and, as Jennings, the paparazzo who stumbles on the truth, David Thewlis at least emerges with dignity relatively intact, investing far more in his character and performance than the film deserves.
But, after the recent Exorcist prequels, it seems that while the devil may have all the best tunes, these days he's definitely getting short shrift with the movies.