The First Omen (Digital)

A young American woman is sent to Rome to begin a life of service to the church, but encounters a darkness that causes her to question her faith and uncovers a terrifying conspiracy that hopes to bring about the birth of evil incarnate.

May 29, 2024 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Ah, the prequel. A Hollywood copout or a way to give movie-lovers some new insight into an already existing world? Or both? It might be argued that the first prequel, or the first major prequel, was The Godfather: Part II. It served as both a sequel and a prequel. But that was in the early 70’s and nowadays we’ve got “universes.” Take an existing film and make a prequel or a television series and…there ya go. Whatever your opinion is on prequels, it is a way to put a new spin on something we’ve seen and already (think) we know a lot about. So when a classic like 1976’s The Omen gets a prequel half a century later, do we scratch our heads asking “why?” or do we just go with it? I chose the latter.

We meet Margaret (Nell Tiger Free), an American novitate sent to Rome to take her vows. She’s reunited with Cardinal Lawrence (Bill Nighy) – someone who she’s known most of her life. She’s then approached by Father Brennan (Ralph Ineson) who warns her that there’s something “very un-Christian” happening within the covenant’s walls. This all has to do with a young girl, Carlita (Nicole Sorace). To tell much, if any, more would be an assault on the viewer. For those that remember The Omen, the rub came when Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) had to come to the conclusion that he might have to kill his adopted son to stop his evil. Does The First Omen have an ace like that up its sleeve as well? It just might.

There’s a bit part of me that didn’t want to like this film. Why? Simply put, I just think prequels are somewhat…lazy. And I shouldn’t think like that. But the benefit of building on a pre-existing universe is that the audience is already familiar with the story. What this film does is, of course, expand on that and it does find a way to segue into the original. I won’t say how, of course, but let’s just say that it’s very clever. Regardless of your opinion of religion, Catholicism and the like – put all that aside. This one had me quaking in my boots during a few scenes and that’s hard to do. Enjoy. I did.

Video: How’s it look?

By and large, films about death, exorcism or possession aren’t exactly going to light up the color spectrum. And this one is no different. There are truly beautiful shots in the film, though those take a backseat to the overall look, feel and tone of the film. The 1.85:1 AVC HD image has no trouble with the color scheme, though. Black levels are strong as is contrast and the detail level really gives us a look at at all the visual elements that comprise the movie.

Audio: How’s it sound?

What could have been a run-of-the-mill DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has found some new life (pardon the pun) as the speakers offer a wide variety of sounds that do their best to amp things up. Vocals are, as expected, pure and crisp. Surrounds aren’t left out in the cold, either – they do a great job of providing a natural-sounding stage that heightens the mood. Overall, it’s a much better mix than I was expecting.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • The Mystery of Margaret – Join director Arkasha Stevenson and stars Nell Tiger Free, Bill Nighy and Maria Caballero as they dive into the character of Margaret, her relationships with other characters, and how she’s manipulated while trying to solve the film’s horrifying mystery.
  • The Director’s Vision – Director Arkasha Stevenson talks about her love of horror films, the opportunity to expand on The Omen legacy, and crafting The First Omen entirely through a female lens. She also describes shooting in Rome, and the cast recounts working with Arkasha.
  • Signs of The First Omen – Join the director and talented artists as they reveal some of the symbolism within the set designs and the costumes. Learn how the use of practical effects blurs the line between what is real and what is not in The First Omen’s terrifying world.

The Bottom Line

Prequels, if done right, not only add a new layer to an already existing storyline, but can give the viewer more insight into the world. I’ve never been too much of a fan of The Omen and its sequels, but The First Omen struck a chord with me (I wonder if my wife should be worried?). It’s well done and checks all the boxes.

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