A still from ‘The First Omen’  

A still from ‘The First Omen’  
| Photo Credit: @20thHorror/X

Despite the original film The Omen (1976) being a cult classic, the franchise never reached the same league as its counterparts like The Exorcist, Evil Dead or even Halloween. Most horror franchises have also had very little luck with sequels and reboots, except for Evil Dead (last year’s Evil Dead Rise was a must-watch). But unlike most of the underwhelming respawns in other franchises, the Omen series’ latest entry, The First Omen, is the best of the lot since the original.

Many horror titles of the ‘70s and ‘80s usually resorted to smaller, contained canvases; they usually involved a child that needed an exorcism, ghosts that haunted a house and its new inhabitants, or a horrific killer on the loose slashing his way through teens at a cabin in the woods. The Omen franchise had much larger stakes; the original revolved around Damien Thorn, a child who happened to be the Antichrist and son of the Devil, who, as an adult would attempt to become an influential person, powerful enough to reach for the presidency. In The First Omen, we learned about this child’s unholy origins and the forces that work for and against the proceedings.

The First Omen (English)

Director: Arkasha Stevenson

Cast: Nell Tiger Free, Sônia Braga, Ralph Ineson, Bill Nighy, Tawfeek Barhom 

Runtime: 119 minutes

Storyline: An American woman sent to work at a church in Rome uncovers a conspiracy and learns how she’s also a part of it

Now, The First Omen, set in 1971, introduces us to Margaret Daino (Nell Tiger Free), an American novitiate who lands in Rome amidst the civil rights protests. She is welcomed by Cardinal Lawrence (Bill Nighy) who explains how the new gen has “rejected authority” and lost faith in the concept of institutions including the church. What troubles Margaret more are the horrific visions she has been getting over the years that led to a troubled childhood. She sees herself in Carlita (Nicole Sorace), one of the older children of the Vizzardeli Orphanage where Margaret is set to take her vows. Margaret spots a series of weird happenings which are answered when she meets Father Brennan, and in the quest to uncover the secrets guarded within those in the orphanage, she ends up finding a lot about herself.

What sets The First Omen apart from other horror franchise prequels is how it works as a standalone flick and not just as an introduction to the lore of the series. Though we already know that the film ends with the birth of Damien, as The Omen starts with the Thorn family adopting the newborn, director Arkasha Stevenson does a neat job of sensitising the concept of childbirth.

A still from ‘The First Omen’  

A still from ‘The First Omen’  

Stevenson, understanding her assignment, neither dwells deep into the myth and religion nor does she swamp us with too much exposition; she instead revels in making the audience feel unsettled, a zone the film thrives in. With the perfect dose of new-age grotesqueness and hat-tips to some of the best kills from the aged franchise, an array of scares come our way. Remember the “It’s all for you” scene from The Omen? The First Omen features a character taking her own life in the same manner. Father Brennan who meets his fate in the 1976 film sees another man of faith having a similar end in The First Omen. Throw into the equation some monsters behind curtains, women getting wrapped with black veils before being turned into a conduit, and shots of horrific artwork that adorn the walls, and we have a jolly number of tropes to thrill horror film lovers instead of the usual jump scares and fast camera movements.

You know a horror film that hits the shores of our country is good when the scares work despite getting mercilessly chopped in the name of censorship. Nevertheless, thanks to a fantastic plot and a brilliant Nell Tiger Free, The First Omen breathes life into a legendary yet battered franchise.

The First Omen is currently running in theatres


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