Why ‘The First Omen’ Can’t Measure Up to the Original

Prequel delivers nightmarish images within a story too easily forgotten

No movie franchise is safe from revival.

Now, it’s “The Omen’s” turn despite a weak 2006 attempt to give the devil his due. Again.

“The First Omen” craves a do-over.

The prequel follows an aspiring nun who discovers something sinister within the church. We all know where that will lead.

Director Arkasha Stevenson shows considerable promise in arranging horror movie tropes. Too bad the story at the heart of the film betrays her.

The First Omen | Official Trailer | 20th Century Studios

Aspiring nun Margaret (Nell Tiger Free) arrives in Rome brimming with faith and optimism. She’s reunited with an old friend in the church, Cardinal Lawrence (Bill Nighy), and connects with a fellow believer who seems a bit … secular for the gig in question.

We’re even privy to a scene where nuns talk like the quartet from “Sex and the City.” It’s one of many threads the film can’t follow through on.

Our novitiate also meets a troubled girl (Nicole Sorace) who leads her to some horrifying discoveries. There’s an insidious plot underway that betrays the Church in profound ways.

The First Omen | "What's Your Name?" Official Clip | In Theaters April 5

“The First Omen” opens with a scene that telegraphs its kill so baldly you’ll want to blink it away. There’s a twist, but it’s still too obvious for horror fans. It’s still creepy enough to give us some hope.

That’s hardly the only time the prequel lays out its cards like that. We’re also treated to a recreation of a key death from the original film. Call it an homage if you will. It plays out as tired and unnecessary.

The biggest issue is clear. The dark plot behind the film doesn’t make enough sense. The risks behind it are so vast it suggests a serious examination of its results. And that doesn’t factor in the moral weight of its machinations.

Show that on screen and you’ve got something deep, dramatic and rich. Instead, we see nothing of the kind, rendering it dramatically inert.

Far better is Free, given tasked with holding the wobbly film together. She’s up to the challenge, showing both faith and an understanding that her beliefs will be challenged in ways she never expected.


Director Stevenson evokes a chilling atmosphere and dutifully recreates the period in play. The story opens in 1971, making it link directly to the Gregory Peck original. The musical cues, while never as sublime as what Richard Donner uncorked in 1976, are sufficiently creepy.

Scares, sadly, are in short supply. We do get two weak jump scares and one trick of the light that proves shockingly effective. The rest is a grab bag of body horror and de facto horror bloodshed.

“The First Omen” teases how various cultures exploit the weak, from the worker protests happening outside church walls to the plot leading to the demon child’s arrival. Stevenson, who co-wrote the screenplay, treads carefully here, letting audiences make the necessary connections.

It’s impossible to miss the film’s feminist messaging, and it’s hardly a tale to be shared within Christian circles. That’s fine. Next, time, make a sturdier horror movie to bring said messages home.

HiT or Miss: “The First Omen” successfully ties into the 1976 original. That’s where the good news ends.


  1. Ideologues shouldn’t review movies. You are clearly fixated on the original as you are in almost all instances of movies being remade. Therefore you are wholly incapable of viewing the new work as a stand alone project. It’s just like movies where the race or gender of a character is changed in the remake. Your racism and misogyny make you the LAST person to go to for a “review”.. And YES it is racist and misogynist to obsess over the race or sex of characters in a remake made for a different generation. No one makes movies for anyone outside the 18-35 yr old demographic and the original is still there for your viewing pleasure so YEP! Racist and misogynist is you.

    1. “You are clearly fixated on the original as you are in almost all instances of movies being remade. Therefore you are wholly incapable”

      Uh, it’s a REMAKE, genius! Or, at most a prequel: in any case, a shameless rip-off. And I agree with the author — even in the 1;20 preview, i got the distinct feel of woke messaging in effect.

    2. Keith Diggs, you are clearly a far left racist and misogynist.
      Your words are hate speech
      You obsess over trying to find anything in Mr. Toto’s review to call racist, which is just a condemnation of your own racism.

      Sad and pathetic.

    3. You have no mind of your own, dude. This “racist”, “mysogyny” nonsense is just programmed into your brain. Get help.

  2. I don’t understand why, if they want to do these classic films over, do they not transfer their digital, sterile content onto actual film so at least you are getting the easy part right. These remakes always have a straight-to-video feel because in many ways that’s what they are.

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