'The First Omen' review: Delivering Damien 2
A scene from 'The First Open." 20th Century Studios

'The First Omen' review: Delivering Damien

This new film is a prequel to a classic horror film from the 1970s -- The Omen' (1976).
Fred Hawson | Apr 08 2024


It was 1971 when American novice Margaret Daino (Nell Tiger Free) went to Italy to take her vows as a nun. Upon recommendation of her mentor Cardinal Lawrence (Bill Nighy), she was assigned to go to a convent led by Abbess Sister Silvia (Sonia Braga), that was also an orphanage for exclusively female children. A priest there, Fr. Brennan (Ralph Ineson), warned Margaret to stay away from an orphan named Carlita Scianna (Nicole Sorace).

This new film is a prequel to a classic horror film from the 1970s -- "The Omen" (1976). In that first film, the newborn son of politician-diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) passed away right after he was born. Hoping to spare his wife Katherine (Lee Remick) from this trauma, Thorn agreed to replace his dead son with another baby boy also born on the same day, June 6 at 6 a.m., whose mother died giving birth to him. They named him Damien.  

This original film, directed by Richard Donner from a script by David Seltzer, was remarkable for its suspenseful storytelling and diabolical twists and turns. It was a solid 10/10 in my book, even upon repeat viewing now. It won an Oscar for its eerily atmospheric yet propulsive musical score by Jerry Goldsmith. It's theme song "Ave Satani" was a left-field nominee for Best Original Song. It had memorably ghastly death scenes, two of which (the hanged governess and the impaled priest) were actually remade in this prequel.  

Being a prequel, it goes without saying that we already know that a baby boy was going to survive at the end of this film -- the baby boy who will be offered to Robert Thorn in the 1976 film, who turns out to be the Antichrist. It is the mysterious identity of the mother which will keep you guessing. 

There was also a controversial side plot about a faction within the Church which wanted Antichrist to exist in the world for misguided reasons.

This film was released right after Michael Mohan's film "Immaculate," with which it uncannily shared a lot of common elements. Both start with an American novice nun sent to a convent in Italy to take her vows, and end with a difficult birth scene. There would also be a mentor priest, a suicide scene, a bad-influence fellow nun, even a climactic fire. 

But while "Immaculate" used a science fiction device, "The First Omen" stuck with the good old supernatural route.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, “Fred Said.”