THUMBS DOWN FILM REVEIW RATING!
There are a couple of "fan camps" with regards to this film. First we have those that absolutely loved the original 1976 theatrical release starring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, and Harvey Stephens (Damien) but despise this remake. Then there are those that haven’t seen the ‘76 version but have watched this one and found it adequate. And finally there are those who’ve watched both versions and like this one better than the original.
So where do I stand?
I’m firmly in the first group. Although I didn’t think the ‘76 version was flawless, it did have some stellar acting, a great deal of psychological horror, and an interesting story. I’d never really thought about a remake. But oh Hollyweird has. That seems to be their bread-n-butter lately. From WAR OF THE WORLDS to KING KONG, everything is being "updated".
But what about this film...
Well, it has its moments but the flaws are glaring. Relying more on the sudden heart-pounding noise or attack, this version shied away from the psychological and went visceral. Not necessarily a bad thing; it just depends on your expectations. Personally, I was looking for the psych aspects but was woefully disappointed.
Watching Mia Farrow was probably the most rewarding. She actually creeped me out. Being Damien’s nanny and protector, she took her character all the way to the edge and left me hanging there, wondering if she’d push me over. But her acting was really the only adequate performance. Liev Schreiber (Robert Thorn) played as wooden a role as I’ve seen from him. By comparison, his performance in (again, another remake) THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE was much more believable. Julia Styles is equally a sapling as Mrs. Thorn. And the worst acting came, unfortunately, from Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick (Damien). I don’t like bashing child actors as I feel much of what they do isn’t their fault; they simply follow direction. So to be more specific, the directing of Fitzpatrick was atrocious. Mostly he just stands there, staring at the camera, trying to put a mean scowl on his face ...and failing miserably.
Being in the medical field, I also MUST comment on two specific events that were obviously not researched. First is the trailer we’ve all seen with Damien’s first nanny standing on a roof with rope looped around her neck yelling, "Damien! Look at me! It’s all for you, Damien!" then jumping. Realistically her head would’ve come off, not just her shoes. The second is the hospital scene where Mia Farrow goes in to see Julia Styles and injects her intravenous line with a smidgin of air. It would take huge syringes full of air to do any sort of damage and even then the effects would take a very long time before anything life-threatening came about.
My biggest complaint, though, has to come from the poor script. Perhaps they were trying to appeal to multiple groups of movie-goers by putting in grotesque scenes with only a dash of the psychological. I don’t know. But, for whatever reason, they decided to travel this route and I found it a terrible way to go. Neither worked and seemed to negate the other.