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The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Review | ‘The First Omen’ is a solid horror reboot

Arkasha Stevenson’s film is the rare horror reboot that does justice to the original, though it isn’t for the squeamish.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY
Mar 12, 2023; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Bill Nighy takes selfies with fans as he arrives at the 95th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood in Los Angeles on Sunday, March 12, 2023. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY

To those who watched the 1976 film “The Omen” and walked away dying to know the events that set its plot in motion, you’re in luck. To those who didn’t, well, there are worse new horror movies to go out and see.

“The First Omen” is nothing new. Reboots and belated sequels to classic horror movies have become quite commonplace in recent years, and it was only a matter of time before the Omen franchise got this treatment. What is unusual, however, is that “The First Omen” both respects what came before it and serves as a solid horror flick on its own.

The original film’s premise was straightforward, following a couple who discover that their adopted son is the spawn of the devil. “The First Omen” tells a new, somewhat convoluted story that aims to set this up in ways that can only be elaborated on through spoilers.

I was impressed by how seamlessly “The First Omen” connects to the original. None of the callbacks felt forced, and the narrative flowed naturally, building up to the opening scene of the 1976 film effortlessly.

The film’s poster proclaims it is “the most terrifying movie of the year.” Only time will tell if that statement holds, but I found the scares to be quite effective, even if they weren’t as consistent as I would have liked. There was one scene in particular that I would say is one of the scariest things I’ve seen in a new horror movie in recent years.

In my opinion, the original “Omen” would have been an all-time great horror movie if it had trimmed off about half an hour. “The First Omen” unfortunately takes after its predecessor and also runs too long. A tighter 90 minutes would have served this story well, and I didn’t think every single scene was necessary.

The film largely served as a retread of the original and I was prepared to write it off exclusively as such around the halfway point but, fortunately, the twist in the third act saved it. What started as a predictable horror reboot becomes something far more interesting, if only for a moment or two.

I found the cinematography choices quite effective. Despite being somewhat new filmmaking, Arkasha Stevenson’s camera moves with the deftness of a horror veteran.

The film utilizes its period setting very well, with the tumult of the 1970s being vital to the plot in ways that I wasn’t expecting, perhaps even more so than the original.

I think it’s also worth noting that this film isn’t for the squeamish. Earlier cuts were rated NC-17 by the Motion Pictures Association, and even the theatrical cut doesn’t shy away from disturbing imagery.

Despite its padded runtime, “The First Omen” is the rare horror reboot that truly does justice to the original text and is maybe even on par with it. I recommend it to horror fans and those invested in this franchise, but probably not to anyone else.

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About the Contributor
Grant Darnell, Arts Reporter
Grant Darnell is a second year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in English and Creative Writing and Screenwriting Arts. He is currently an Arts Reporter for the Daily Iowan.