Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.
USA, 2006. Screenplay by David Seltzer. Cinematography by Jonathan Sela. Produced by John Moore, Glenn Williamson. Music by Marco Beltrami. Production Design by Patrick Lumb. Costume Design by George L. Little. Film Editing by Dan Zimmerman.
What made thriller/horror movies of the sixties and seventies (The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, even Marathon Man) so effective was that they always took place in the real world, thus making their paranormal events such as giving birth to the devil’s child or being operated on by a psychotic Nazi dentist seem that much scarier. What we get from the genre now are movies that set you up for an obviously fictional world full of freaky optical effects and overly self-conscious production design, and this remake of the popular seventies box office hit is no exception. Apart from a really tacky opening that connects September 11th and the 2005 tsunami to events in the Bible’s book of Revelations, the film is virtually a scene-by-scene remake of the original, with Liev Schreiber subbing his most wooden performance for Gregory Peck’s equally stony one, and Julia Stiles making mincemeat of Lee Remick’s role. They play a couple whose baby (unbeknownst to her) dies on the night that it is born, and rather than put his wife through the grief of their loss Schreiber decides to adopt an orphan born on the same night that he has no idea is actually Satan’s son (well, really, how could he? Does the devil have DNA?) This cold hard fact becomes more obvious, however, when little Damien grows up and starts making pouty faces at churches, big black dogs are automatically tuned towards protecting him from harm, plus he inspires monkeys in the zoo to hiss at him: the world is not safe! Eventually, thanks to some mysterious deaths and his son continuing to make those faces (I’ll go to hell for being so mean to a kid but Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick as Damien really is the absolute worst child actor in recent years), Schreiber realizes that the devil is poised on taking over the world if he doesn’t do something about it. Mia Farrow is the only spot of fun in this incredibly idiotic film, the one cast member who is having a devilishly good time being in a bad horror movie (and adorably referencing her starmaking debut in Polanski’s aforementioned classic); if the rest of the film had tried to be as funny as her instead of earnestly attempting to be scary, it might not have turned out so sour.