The First Omen Review

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Rating: 4/5

Synopsis:

Who would have thought that within a matter of weeks there would be two movies about a nun getting impregnated with a satanic child? Certainly not me! This one is far more impressive though. A young American nun travels to Rome to further her teachings in the church. She hopes to take her vows and finish her journey. But as she begins to unravel the history of the church, she finds that there are different factions within it. Worst of all, this group of believers are trying to conceive the son of the Devil. Can this nun stop these atrocities before evil permeates the world?

Positives:

Prequels don’t usually have the best reputation, especially in the horror genre. But when I saw the preview for this movie, I was immediately interested. “The First Omen” not only met my expectations, it exceeded them. The production of the film is top notch. The visual style, sound mixing, and performances are all great. I’m happy to see a story of this nature taken so seriously in the execution. It’s not worried about infusing camp into the story to alleviate the tension. Instead, we are allowed to sit in the discomfort of each moment as the story unfolds. There are a few ong, lingering shots that unravel as we sit in terror with our main character. It truly tests an audience’s limits to how much disturbing content they can handle. I enjoyed experiencing a horror movie that embraces the terror and never lets up!

A concern I have when hearing about a prequel is the necessity of it. Sometimes they will complicate the lore of the original film and create lots of unnecessary answers that were best left unknown. “The First Omen” thankfully enhances the events of the original film. The story feels authentic to the time period it’s taking place in. Details like the religious protests and the growing secularism amongst younger people is very prevalent to the central story. This directly ties into how the coming of Satan fits into the narrative. Each piece of the story feels earned and authentic to the franchise that came before it. I also enjoyed how visceral the scares were. There is a fair amount of violence and disturbing sequences that should please gore hounds. But they are not there to be gross. They enhance the discomfort and horrifying revelations within this sect of the church. I’d argue that if the intensity showcased in these scenes weren’t graphic, the point of the story wouldn’t have worked as well. 

Negatives:

As good as “The First Omen” is, there are a few details that hold it back from being truly great. The most noticeable aspect that bothered me was the intent to set this up as a brand new franchise. The ending felt like a reshoot that was mandated in order to leave the prospect of future sequels open. I thought the film ended on a tremendous note before this ending scene was tacked on. The natural ending answered all questions posed and set up the original “Omen” film nicely. But this ending was strange, creating a conflicting feeling as I left my screening. 

There are also some pacing issues. The film is just under two hours but it feels longer. The third act in particular (while effective) seemed to drag out many of the concluding events. I thought the movie was going to end two or three times before it actually did. But I’d rather a story unfold and explain things properly instead of rushing a finale and leaving audiences on a sour note. Credit to the film for doing that effectively. 

Conclusion:

“The First Omen” is a surprise that most didn’t see coming. We’ve been trained to believe that horror prequels are serviced as a cash grab, adding little to the established franchise. But the effort and care to develop this story is evident. The film enhances the original “Omen” and creates a story that is downright terrifying. The performances also enhance the intensity of the film. I recommend any horror fan give this a watch, but I’d advise those with weak stomachs to sit this one out. This isn’t for the faint of heart!