The new version of The Omen is not a shot-for-shot remake of the original. It is a line-for-line remake in many places, which makes me wonder something: the script is credited to David Seltzer, who wrote the 1976 film. But it's not very hard to imagine that it is in fact the same exact script, with a day or two's work for some script-doctoring drudge to add a 2006 flair (not nearly enough: the second act would be half the length if the characters had ever heard of Google). Just about the only real change is the deeply ineffective addition of a scene where the Pope is told that 9/11, the Columbia explosion and the 2004 typhoon are all precursors of Armageddon.

You know the plot, right? Ambassador's son dies in childbirth, creepy priest give ambassador and his wife the Anti-Christ as a replacement. I'm going to try very hard not to complain about the film's incoherent and wildly inaccurate theology (did you know that Martin Luther believed Revelations to be a meritless and un-Christian work? Now you do), because I have the same problems with the original.

(It's worth saying, The Omen of 1976 is an extremely divisive film. There are two camps: those who think it's second only to The Exorcist in its creation of religious dread, and those who think it's an inert cornball of a film that knows as much about religion as a game of Candy Land. I am not in the first camp).

Unfortunately, refusing to discuss anything redundant to the original leaves me with very little to say. It's the same film with a younger cast to serve the market needs of contemporary horror. Actually, the cast - the monumentally overtalented cast - is one of the few things that I can possibly think of to talk about, so let's go item-by-item:

-Gregory Peck (1976) vs. Liev Schreiber (2006) as Ambassador Robert Thorne: both are as wooden and uncharismatic as they have ever, ever been, but Peck is also 60. Advantage: remake.
-Lee Remick vs. Julia Stiles as Kate Thorne: Remick has fewer things to be ashamed of in her career. Advantage: original.
-David Warner vs. David Thewlis as photographer/investigator Keith Jennings: both are fine character actors, Thewlis worked with Mike Leigh. Advantage: remake.
-Bille Whitlaw vs. Mia Farrow as satanic nanny Mrs. Baylock. I'll get to this in a moment. Advantage: remake.
-Patrick Troughton vs. Pete Postlethwaite as insane millennialist Father Brennan: Troughton was the Second Doctor Who, even though I've always loved Postlethwaite. Advantage: original.
-Leo McKern vs. Michael Gambon as German demonologist Bugenhagen. Gambon vs. anyone, Gambon wins. Advantage: remake.

So yeah, boatload of talent, and they are all trapped inside a desparately serious attempt at Art Horror. And just like the original, it turns into a wonderful sniggerfest of actors with pained looks on their faces, like they have pulled something or are constipated.

Except for two cases. Gambon is just here for fun, and he camps it up in high style, but he's only onscreen for about one glorious minute. The other case is Mia Farrow, who was clearly cast because of her previous Satanic baby film, which was actually a good movie. Farrow knows, or seems to, that this is not a good movie, and so she glides through with bug-eyed glee, smacking her lips around some truly goofy dialogue and generally leaving no set unchewed. Farrow's performance almost nudges the film into "so bad it's good"territory, but there's a lot of "so bad it's boring" to overcome.

What else? It's terribly edited, in an attempt to make it seem scary by being jarring. The cinematography is so brilliant that I really can't remember what it looked like 16 hours later. The sound design - actually yes, I can talk about that. It's a mess, but an interesting mess: mere seconds after I noticed a really nice surround effect on some creept chanting, I heard a "scary" dog panting that sounded like it was trying to get peanut butter out of its mouth. And everything is way too loud, in an effort to make things actually scary.

So the movie: worth seeing if you liked the original and want to see it on better film stock. I can't stress how obvious it is that it was greenlit for one reason: 6/6/06. The irony is that recent archaeology has shown that 666 was a later, likely erroneous Number of the Beast. Instead, 616 seems to be the original text of Revelations. Which gives me an idea: a group of Satanists move into a house at 666 Beast Street, and call up the Dark One; but in a hilarious snafu, he ends up a few houses down the road, at 616 Beast Street, where his arrival surprises the auto-shop owner who lives there with his wife, a champion quilter. They bond with Satan and inadvertently prevent the End Times in Harold Ramis' outrageous new comedy, Speak of the Devil!

...where was I?