There are few villains that are as epitome of evil as the Antichrist. But what if the almighty sinister being on this Earth was just a young, seemingly innocent child? The intrigue of that concept has led to 1976’s The Omen becoming a horror classic for 45 years now.
Then on June 6, 2006 the studio couldn’t resist capitalizing on that date and released a remake to coincide with Damien’s 666 themed birthday. Thus, we celebrate today both the 45th anniversary of the original and the 15th anniversary of the remake. So we thought it would be fun to look at both as objectively as possible and compare them!
(Note: Normally “Story” would be one of the categories, but since the remake pretty much followed the original completely, much to the chagrin of critics a fans, there’s no real point in comparing them on story since they’re virtually identical.)
Round I – Main Characters
Both versions rely very heavily on the Thorn family, particularly Robert. He’s the one who begins the story as stoic, but is slowly broken down as he discovers the truth about his son. Normally, Liev Schreiber is a very talented actor, but in the entire first half of the remake, it seems like he’s taking the stoic part a bit too far into almost boring territory.
Gregory Peck was an acting legend, and it really shows. Even at the beginning, following the incident with the nanny who commits suicide, Peck’s Robert Thorn is clearly disturbed and tortured, and we’re able to visually see him hiding them beneath the stoicism. It’s not an easy thing for an actor to do and Gregory Peck did so seamlessly.
When it comes to Katherine Thorn, both Lee Remick and Julia Stiles did great jobs of portraying someone whose sanity was being tested. Although Remick has more subtlety in her performance. Plus it made more sense in the original that the Thorns were so desperate for a child because they were already a bit older.
In regards to Damien himself, surprisingly he’s not really the focus in either version and doesn’t really get to shine in the role until the sequel.
Round I Winner – 1976
Round II – Supporting Characters
The Omen certainly wouldn’t be what it is without characters like the foreboding Father Brennan, the inquisitive Keith Jennings, the disturbed Bugenhagan, and the terrifying Mrs. Baylock. Both versions tapped very talented and famous character actors from their respective times.
Davids Warner and Thewlis are strong as Keith Jennings, but Warner has a bit more urgency and foreboding to his performance. And while Pete Postlethwaite is creepier as Father Brennan, Patrick Troughton gives the character an understandable desperation.
This is someone who previously had served the forces of darkness, and with death upon him was seeking redemption. Neither version gives much screen time to Bugenhagan, but he’s a character that certainly leaves an impression. Michael Gambon’s 2006 take is knowledge and very direct, but there’s a sense of alarm and panic in him.
He knows that the stakes mean the fate of humanity itself. And while this is probably a more realistic iteration, it’s hard to top Leo McKern’s very blunt delivery about what Robert must do to Damien. And finally no discussion about The Omen is complete without mentioning the literal nanny from hell, Mrs. Baylock. Billie Whitelaw is creepy as hell right from the first scene in her job interview.
She’s a sinister character and oozes such every scene that she’s in. However, we have to give the edge of Mia Farrow in the 2006 version. Not only is she equally creepy and terrifying, but she’s downright charming in the beginning, and we see how easy it is for her “blend in” like a sociopath and seem like a lovely nanny, while also trying to kill you. But because 3 out of the 4 edges were given to the original, it takes the whole round.
Round II Winner – 1976
Round III – Style/Tone
Richard Donner was an amazingly versatile director, giving us such classics as Superman, The Goonies, and of course The Omen. His style of directing wasn’t really particular to any one genre, rather it was just overall very tight and efficient.
So it does seem a bit unfair to compare him to the 2006 remake’s director John Moore, who gained acclaim with Behind Enemy Lines, but also directed the poorly received Max Payne and A Good Day to Die Hard (the worst of the series). However, it does need to be addressed that while the original is much better directed, it doesn’t really take many chances.
The remake experiments with these weird surreal nightmares that Katherine has, along with distinct musical cues and fast editing to set the tone for when the location changes to Italy, then Israel.
Not all of these pay off, and in fact that remake itself is shot with an overuse of close ups, and high frame rate, making the whole thing look more like a TV drama than a Hollywood film. So in a stunning upset, we have to give this round to the remake, simply for the fact that it attempted to have a unique style, albeit not always successfully.
Round III Winner – 2006
Round IV – Technical Specs
While the creative choices gave it last round, some of them are going to cost it this time. The original overall shot much better, and despite being released in the 70’s its practical effects mostly hold up today.
It really only loses credibility in the one shot of the decapitation where it’s very obvious that it’s a fake head. Unfortunately for the 2006 version, there are more than a few scenes that look dated, even just 15 years later. At the time, CGI was starting to get overused, and it didn’t quite look as good as it does now.
The result is some of the death scenes (particularly Father Brennan and Keith Jennings) looking a bit cartoonish with CGI.
Round IV Winner – 1976
Round V – Scares
At this point, it’s mathematically impossible for the remake to win, but we’ll go on as a formality because this is an incredibly fun (and simple round). Much to the dismay of many fans, the remake pretty much followed the original scene for scene, beat by beat. So there isn’t really anything to set either of them apart since they both contain the same scares.
That said, the original does one massive edge that elevates it above most other horror movies ever. And that is the incredibly iconic Jerry Goldsmith score, which includes the Latin chorus singing “Ave Satani”. Just hearing those first few notes and lyrics sends chills down your spine, and automatically conjures up images of little evil Damien…
Round V (and overall) Winner – 1976
Which one do you prefer and why? Let us know in the comments!