‘The First Omen’ movie review: This deliciously scary prequel is a franchise reviver

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

While the original ‘The Omen’ from 1976 is heralded as an iconic horror film, its successors did not manage to attain the same iconic status as peers like ‘The Exorcist’, ‘Evil Dead’, or ‘Halloween’. With sequels and reimagined versions typically disappointing horror enthusiasts, the ‘Evil Dead’ series being a notable exception, it’s refreshing to witness ‘The First Omen’ breathe fresh life into its series. This entry surprisingly surpasses all sequels, standing second only to the debut film.

Horror classics from the seventies and eighties often took place in constrained settings, typically featuring possessed children, haunted abodes, or relentless slashers. However, ‘The Omen’ series endeavored to escalate the narrative with the young Antichrist, Damien Thorn, ordained to rise to political powerhouse. ‘The First Omen’ delves into the malevolent roots of this child and the dark powers at play in his story.

The First Omen (English)

Director: Arkasha Stevenson

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

Runtime: 119 minutes

Storyline: A novice from America delves into a conspiratorial web in Rome and uncovers her unexpected connection to it.

In the backdrop of the 1971 civil rights demonstrations, the American novitiate, Margaret Daino (Nell Tiger Free), ventures to Rome where she encounters a church facing the challenges of modern skepticism. Her personal struggles with distressing premonitions mirror those of a child in an orphanage she is bound to serve. Investigating strange occurrences there, Margaret faces revelations that tie her fate to the very mysteries she seeks to unravel.

‘The First Omen’ outshines typical horror prequels, not just connecting to the existing narrative, but also standing strong on its own. With an impending ending known to ‘The Omen’ followers, director Arkasha Stevenson skillfully engages the audience with the tender yet frightful subject of childbirth.

A scene from ‘The First Omen’

A scene from ‘The First Omen’

Stevenson steers clear of excessive exposition or deep religious discourse, choosing instead to immerse her audience in a lasting sense of dread. Through clever visual scares and nods to the franchise’s storied past, a variety of terrors unfold. The film combines spine-chilling elements like fatal sacrifices, supernatural confrontations, and macabre art to offer more than just the typical frights.

The ability of ‘The First Omen’ to incite fear in spite of stringent censorship cuts is a testament to its tight script and stellar performance by Nell Tiger Free, giving a breath of new life to a beloved but weary horror series.

‘The First Omen’ plays in theaters now.

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