- Movie Rating -

The First Omen (2024)

| April 14, 2024

Let me start by saying that I did NOT see Michael Mohan’s IMMACULATE, which came out a few weeks ago and to which my fellow critics have labeled this Omen prequel a less-than stellar carbon copy.  Having not seen that film I feel that I can safely judge this movie on its own.  So, with that in mind, we shall proceed.

I can also tell you that I only saw The First Omen because it got some very positive reviews, otherwise I might have happily skipped it.  Prequels always seem a little desperate and, to be honest, I’ve never really been a fan of this series.  The central flaw, for me, is that it depicts a supposed battle between the forces of Heaven and Hell but apparently believes that in such a clash, God would be blissfully asleep at the wheel.  One might be inclined to imagine that The Almighty would do something about a cult of nut-whacks who want to birth a demon child who will be the anti-Christ but this is a movie and you’re not supposed to consider that.

That’s still a problem in this pretty obvious prequel but I’m kind of in the middle with it.  It’s the best film in the needless franchise after the original but I don’t agree with critics who hail as a successful throwback to 70s horror – I think LATE NIGHT WITH THE DEVIL did a much better job with that.

The First Omen is a great looking movie with a terrific tone and a creepy atmosphere and it goes places that I didn’t expect.  And, it’s just me, but there’s a twist as we approach the third act that I did not see coming.  There’s a girl that we expect to be the victim of the cult but it doesn’t turn out to be her.  I will say no more.

The movie takes place in 1971 and starts Nell Tiger Free as Sister Margaret, an American novice nun who comes to Rome to take the veil but almost immediately finds that things are a little off-kilter.  Not to give too much away but there are doings about in the convent that are not only sinister but practically Satanic.  In a nice nod to ROSEMARY’S BABY, she slowly finds that all around her are not who they seem and allies are hard to come by.

I found a lot of flaws here, but I did like the fact that you know that it is leading up to the birth of Damien Thorn but it doesn’t like a forced march – at least not until the closing scenes. 

The movie has a narrative structure that at least lets us learn what is happening along with Sister Margaret.  You’re there with her as the movie slips into a not-too-subtle narrative about reproductive rights coupled with a early 70s revolutionary period when religion was on the wane and all kinds of sinister elements were coming to light – things like governmental conspiracy, cult manipulation and serial killers.  Those elements are present but they’re not forced in.

I just wish that director Arkasha Stevenson would bring this movie out of the rafters a little bit.  One of the things that was notable about the best horror films of the early 70s were those moments of unsettling quiet and the slow build-up to terrible things.  Think of the opening of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE or the scenes in THE EXORCIST where it’s just the characters trying to figure out what is happening.  Those passages are few and far between in THE FIRST OMEN and the music and the noise and the fancy editing are ramped up to 11 in every scene.  I liked a movie that lets the environment breathe a little bit.  Still, it’s not a bad movie.  It tries harder than most.  I would have just liked a little more restraint and a little more palpable tension.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2024) View IMDB Filed in: Horror