The First Omen (2024)

The First OmenFirst off, just let me say, in the most dry British gentleman-accent as I’m raising my glass of brandy, that: metal up your arse and Hail Satan!


Because who in the right mind would have thought that we’d get a pretty decent prequel to The Omen from 1976 in the year of 2024? Huh… but here we are. Unfortunately, the timing for the promotion for The First Omen couldn’t be much worse as it came straight after The Exorcist: Bieber Believer. *Fart*. People seemed to be finally fed up to the throat with soulless rehashed franchise revivals and didn’t give The First Omen much thought of the day. I was one of them. Here we fucking go again. Satan wept. Then the film came, people saw it, and I was as surprised as everyone else with the common reaction as it was better than expected. It’s a shame that the film underperformed at the box office, but as I said: bad timing. They should have waited another year when the corpse of Believer had once and for all rotted to dust and was faded from everyone’s memory. Oh, well. The motivation for giving it a chance on the silver screen peaked higher when I noticed that the film was directed and co-written by Arkasha Stevenson, who was also involved in the brilliant, sexy and satanic mini series Brand New Cherry Flavor (2021). This is her feature-length directorial debut. And she has learned from the best and knows how to direct a horror movie, that’s for sure.


The year is 1971 and the young woman, Maggie (Nell Tiger Free) has arrived in Rome, Italy, where she’s met by Cardinal Lawrence (Bill Nighy) to drive her to Vizzardeli Orphanage, where she is about to start a life as a nun. The place is filled with red flags (or red omens, if you will) as soon as she sets her first footsteps into the orphanage. She sees some children’s drawings on the wall, but the one that takes her attention is a more sinister drawing made by the mysterious, quiet girl Carlita (Nicole Sorace). Maggie knocks on her door to introduce herself to this Carlita, who hides behind her bed. She crawls at Maggie like a cave girl and gives her a big, wet lick on her cheek. Welcome to Italy, baby. We soon learn that she isn’t quite right in her head and Maggie gets some strong advice from the shunned priest Father Brennan (played by the demon voice himself, Ralph Ineson) that it’s best to keep a distance from her. So many omens here. What was the first omen again..?


Anyway, the film spends a good chunk of time letting us get to know Maggie. Since she hasn’t taken her vows yet, and is basically still free as a bird, her roommate Luz dolls her up and takes her to the disco where Maggie gets her very first sexual arousal. Sure you wanna marry God, honey? Meanwhile, Father Brennan is dedicated to exposing the evil plans of the church. Because we’re in a time when Italy is in a rebellious revolution where young protesters are on the streets and setting cars on fire and such. But the most alarming of all: more and more people have turned their backs to the Lord Jesus Christ. And the church can’t have that. No spoilers, but what the writers did here was quite ballsy, I must say, and some aspects are also straight facts when it comes to sexual abuse, which is an open secret in the Catholic Church and has been for many years. Here, they take it a bit further. And since Italy is still a hardcore Christian country where they still believe that every single mental problem is demon possessions, I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if several audiences died of heart attacks while they were holding their crucifixes and rosaries. Chiama un ambulanza, por fervore!


Maggie is also witnessing a morbid birth scene in the orphanage, which should be enough to take the hint and fly right back to the USA and never look back. But she hasn’t seen anything yet, nor does she know that she’s just a number waiting to get her belly pregnant. She starts to see cryptic visions and a creepy nun in the corner in her dark room and her mental state slowly starts falling apart to pure paranoia while questioning her faith. Nell Tiger Free (free the tiger?) is really outstanding, which gives a colorful emotional range to her role. She’s emphatic, sweet and likable and no one would guess that she was the mother of the most evil kid on the planet.


The film wasn’t as scary I’d hoped for, though. But nevertheless, the film wins me over with its gothic atmosphere and overall grim sense of premonition constantly looming in the air (it’s after all an Omen film). It has a great build-up with a string of unpleasant moments and a tension that boils up to the predictable, yet highly effective climax. Arkasha Stevenson directs the hell of the movie, which is overall beautifully shot with some great scenery of Rome and its old, antique surroundings. Despite some few lame jump scares thrown in, which is almost unavoidable, this is a solid quality film in old-school form that also stands well on its own legs.


Although this prequel does it very best to blend it all in with the first film, there’s an obvious change here, and that’s the jackal, the dog that actually gave birth to Damien. But, of course, we couldn’t have a two-hour movie with a dog running around in the streets of Rome, that wouldn’t be the best recipe for a prequel. The jackal is a key figure here, though, but thus far the keyholes has only produced girls. And that’s as much I can say before spoiling, because the desperate motivation here is everything.


I also like the writing on the poster that says The Most Terrifying Movie of The Year, a quote from the Fox studio themselves. That’s cute. Maybe not the most terrifying of the year 2024, we still have to see ’bout that, but certainly the most terrifying film in the franchise since Damien: Omen II (1978). There’s also a cool nod to the lift scene from that film plus other references without going too much into member berry lane. Hearing Ave Satani (originally written and composed by the great Jerry Goldsmith) for the first time in a movie theater, here with a remix version by Mark Korven, was epic in itself. The film also opens the door to a spin-off sequel, and I can’t say I’m very enthusiastic about that idea.


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Director: Arkasha Stevenson
Writers: Tim Smith, Arkasha Stevenson, Keith Thomas, Ben Jacoby
Country & year: USA, Italy, Serbia, Canada, 2024
Actors: Nell Tiger Free, Ralph Ineson, Sonia Braga, Tawfeek Barhom, Maria Caballero, Charles Dance, Bill Nighy, Nicole Sorace, Ishtar Currie-Wilson, Andrea Arcangeli, Guido Quaglione, Dora Romano


Tom Ghoul




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