June 14-20, 2006

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'The Omen'

Demon Child: Young Thomas Wooler fattens his college fund the usual way: by playing the Antichrist.

Holy Hell

What would a demon say about the new 'Omen' remake?

By David Templeton

Since 1993, I have been calling up strangers and inviting them to the movies. Frequently, I am asked who I plan to invite: "Who are you taking to see Saw 3?" someone might ask, or "Who've you lined up to see Superman Returns?"

Case in point: Last week, while stocking up on microwave popcorn, after handing over my bankcard and ID, I was identified as the very person with whom famous folks attend movies. After a minute or two of the usual banter, I was asked who I was planning to take to see The Omen, the new shot-for-shot remake of the 1976 horror classic. Immediately, the tattooed, nose-ringed, fetchingly aproned female clerk flashed a wide, terrifying grin, and effusively remarked, "You know who I'd want to see The Omen with? I'd want to see it with Pazuzu!"

"Pazuzu?" I repeated. "The demonic entity from The Exorcist?"

"The same," the clerk nodded, clearly impressed that I knew who Pazuzu was. "Pazuzu is the Mesopotamian storm god, the bringer of diseases and death. He has the wings of an eagle, the claws of a lion and the deformed head of a monstrous human. That's who I'd take to see The Omen. Can you imagine how cool that conversation would be?" Strangely, I can . . .

After catching the movie at the local multiplex, Pazuzu and I settle down at a local cafe (I've avoided suggesting Denny's or any place that serves pea soup). Before spinning off on the usual conversational tangents, I ask the 3,000-year-old demon to compare the new Omen with the original Omen, starting with the cast. The remake stars Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles as the horrified adopted parents of the decidedly uncherubic Damien, aka the Antichrist, played here by Thomas Wooler; the original Omen featured Gregory Peck and Lee Remick as Damien's dad and mom, with Harvey Stephens as the terrible toddler.

"As one of the world's most imposing and terrifying demonic entities," I say, "which would you say was the scarier Damien--the old one or the new one?"

"The new kid, definitely," Pazuzu replies. "The original Damien was kinda sweet-faced and angelic, which I guess was the point, to take the so-called personification of evil and make him seem eerier by wrapping him up in a baby-cute package. The new kid, though--he looks like he was born to spill blood. His eyes are empty of life. He pretty much scared the hell out of me."

As for the movies themselves, Pazuzu prefers the first. "It's getting harder to make a good scary movie," he says. "In the '70s, when The Omen was released, born-again Christians gathered in groups to pray that the evil spirits wouldn't bounce up out of the theaters and attack people walking down the street. With this one, they formed action groups to use the film as a recruiting tool. No one's as innocent as they used to be. It's a damn shame."

"Let me ask you something," I say. "Why was the first Omen, when Damien was a demon-child, so much scarier than the other Omens, when he grew up to be a demon-adult played by Sam Neill?"

"Kids are scary, simple as that," he replies. "Have you watched a kid lately? They're mean little buggers. Just saying the phrase 'demon-child' is kind of redundant."

"So, what's your favorite demon-child movie of all time," I ask, "and no fair saying the Exorcist."

"How about the Exorcist 2?" Pazuzu retorts. "It was unfairly panned by the critics, and misunderstood by an audience of second-rate, flesh-bearing intellectual mediocrities. Anyway, I had a bigger part in Exorcist 2."

"Pick another," I badger the demon.

"I liked The Village of the Damned. That one had hundreds of demon-children in it. Spooky as hell."

"Do you mean the original 1960 Village of the Damned, or the 1995 remake?" I ask.

"The original, of course!" the demon barks. "As if I needed something else to dislike you humans for. Why can't you subcreatures leave good enough alone?"

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