Cinema Psycho

"You know what? You have a losing personality." – Manhattan

Archive for June, 2006

Summer Catch-Up; or, Hollywood Shoots the Hostage

Posted by CinemaPsycho on June 23, 2006

Well, I see that the Weinsteins have finally taken my advice and moved Pulse (starring the lovely and talented Kristen Bell) from the middle of summer to early fall (specifically Sept. 8). This may be the best thing for the movie, as horror films generally don’t play well in summer (just look at last year’s lineup of High Tension, Dark Water, Land of the Dead and The Devil’s Rejects), but it might have been nice if they’d picked a weekend that wasn’t so crowded already. With 4 other major films currently scheduled to open that day, it might be tough going. But at least it won’t be competing with Pirates of the Caribbean or Superman Returns. Not to mention Little Man – seriously, anyone who actually pays to see that movie deserves to be shot in the face by Dick Cheney. I’m sure it’s going to be huge. God help us all.

I’m also happy to see the Weinsteins are finally releasing Feast, the Project Greenlight horror film that’s been gathering dust on their shelf for a year now. Not so thrilled that it will be coming out in limited release before hitting DVD a month later. I want to see this thing on the big screen! I know there are lots of people out there who watched the show that are dying to see it – so what’s the problem, exactly? For such supposedly savvy businessmen, sometimes I think the Weinstein boys are afraid of making money. Gulager! Gulager!

Anyway… so last weekend I was watching Speed. I love Speed, and I don’t really care what anyone says about it. Yeah, the sequel sucked, but the original still holds up as an awesome popcorn movie. It’s the kind of straight-ahead, meat-and-potatoes action flick they don’t make anymore – no sci-fi, horror or spy elements, no complicated plot twists or wild conspiracies. Just a gung-ho cop, a mad bomber, a leadfoot cutie and a runaway bus. What more do you need? It’s the kind of movie Hollywood used to excel at – a simple idea done exceedingly well. Jokey lines like “did we bomb the guy’s country or something?” may not go over as well today as they did in 1994, but otherwise it’s still just sheer adrenaline-fueled bliss. Most of all, it’s fucking fun. And it occurred to me while watching it exactly what summer movies have been missing for awhile now.

Fun. Remember when summer movies were fun? Jesus Christ, it seems like forever. See, I grew up in the ‘80’s, back when they knew how to make this stuff, and they churned it out every summer, year after year. Seems like a million years ago, doesn’t it? In the immortal words of Van Halen, where have all the good times gone?

With Hollywood’s quest for the almighty dollar reaching ever more desperate heights, I have to wonder if they haven’t forgotten one of the essential elements of boxoffice success. Between the endless dollops of hype and the consumption of mass quantities of cash, you have to actually make a movie that people like. In Speed lingo, Hollywood is “shooting the hostage” – taking the audience out of the equation. Our wants and needs are no longer important, you see, as long as the studios can nail that big opening weekend. A movie doesn’t have to actually be entertaining, so long as the trailer maintains the appearance of actual entertainment. There’s a sucker born every minute, after all.

Another problem is that since 9-11, everything has to be so goddamn serious now. Even our popcorn movies have to be serious. Why? Aren’t people looking for escapism anymore? I’m all for reflecting reality on the screen, but do we always have to surround ourselves with doom and gloom, for fuck’s sake? Does everything we see have to be dark and sad and alienating? It’s like the ghost of Ingmar Bergman has infiltrated the hearts and minds of Hollywood filmmakers – and he’s not even dead.

When I think about this summer’s offerings so far, fun is not really the first word that comes to mind. I enjoyed M:I-3 and Poseidon for what they were, but both have serious fun deficiencies. M:I-3 is fun at times, but the entire film is crippled by the specter of the first scene, in which very bad guy Phillip Seymour Hoffman tortures Cruise and threatens to shoot his girlfriend in the head. Since that scene isn’t resolved until late in the film, we’re constantly on edge in all the wrong ways. It almost feels like we’re the ones being held hostage, and that’s not my idea of a good time. Poseidon, on the other hand, attempts to be fun in all the wrong places. Instead of letting us simply enjoy the inherent drama of a disaster movie, the filmmakers for some unknown reason set up “comic” deaths that seem odd in the context of the rest of the movie. I give them credit, they do take an honest shot at being fun, but the material just isn’t right for that specific kind of fun. It’s like an underwater snuff film directed by Paul Verhoeven. Very strange. It’s one of those movies that will only be “fun” 30 years from now, when people look back on it and go, “what the fuck were they thinking?”

The Omen is fun, but in a very unintentional way. If your idea of fun is laughing at a movie and not with it, then yeah, it’s an absolute riot. But that’s not the kind of fun that I’m looking for. I haven’t seen The Break-Up, and somehow the idea of watching a couple argue for two hours doesn’t seem to fit my requirements. I don’t think I’d find that experience particularly enjoyable at any time of the year. I haven’t seen Nacho Libre yet, though I want to, but I’ve heard that it’s more quirky than it is genuinely funny. Not that I have a problem with “quirky”, but again, not exactly what I’m searching for.

Then there’s The DaVinci Code and X-Men: The Last Stand, both the very epitome of “two-star” films in my book. Good lord, DaVinci couldn’t have been less fun if it had actually tried to be, and I’m not so sure it didn’t. This should have been the escapist thriller of the summer – instead it’s a dreary affair that’s about as exciting as spending an afternoon in a museum where all the good exhibits are closed. Somehow Ron Howard has taken a bestselling potboiler and turned it into the least interesting film of his career. The cast goes through the motions adequately enough, but there’s no life in the thing (except in Audrey Tautou’s big brown eyes, which were the only things keeping me awake). I honestly can’t think of another mainstream “thriller” that’s this slow-paced and exposition-heavy.

What really killed me (and this will be a spoiler, but the damn movie’s been out for over a month, so deal) is that the movie’s heroes are essentially on the wrong side. It’s Ian McKellen’s Sir Leigh Teabing who should have been the hero, and would have been in any other movie. He was the one trying to reveal the truth, after all, and what’s so bad about that? Knowledge is a good thing, right? So what if Jesus had a kid – would that make his teachings somehow less worthy of following? This is part of the problem of all organized religion, that any new information or progress is somehow threatening. Not only that, but even a work of fiction like the movie itself is considered blasphemy! Seriously, how overblown was all that? It’s fiction, fanatics! It’s not real. No one is trying to say that it’s real. It’s a made-up story, and not even a particularly good one. Get over it, for Christ’s sake.

X-Men – boy, where do I even begin? I have to say, I didn’t think it was a total disaster on the Batman and Robin scale. Give Ratner credit for one thing – he was smart enough not to completely throw out the visual style and subversive themes of Bryan Singer’s first two X-movies. I actually thought parts of it worked really well – particularly Rogue’s decision to take the mutant cure (and given her particular powers, one can’t honestly blame her) and her “love triangle” with Kitty Pryde (phenomenally cute Ellen Page) and Iceman (lucky bastard). But then Rogue has always been my favorite character of the series, so I guess I’m biased. I also liked Beast and I even liked Angel’s little subplot, as small as it was. Little things like that worked for me.

It’s just too bad that so much of the major stuff was handled so clumsily, particularly the Dark Phoenix storyline, the deaths of Professor X and Cyclops (offscreen, for fucking god’s sake?), and the war between the mutants in general. Why exactly was this their “last stand”, anyway? The debate behind the mutant cure was so convoluted, it didn’t seem like fighting for the cure was something they were particularly interested in. So what if Magneto wants to destroy it? Wouldn’t that just return everything to status quo (except for the people who’d already been affected by it, obviously)? Again, it seemed like our heroes were on the wrong side of the battle ideologically, which makes it a little difficult to root for them.

I’m not a huge comics fan (I read them when I was a kid, but I haven’t picked up an X-Men comic in a couple of decades), so I don’t particularly care that they messed with “canon” here. I care that they didn’t pull it off as a movie. I know very little about the whole Dark Phoenix thing as portrayed in the comics, but I was expecting a lot more out of the resurrection of Jean Grey than for her to become Magneto’s out-of-control flunky. If anything, I think they tried to squeeze in too much from the comics for the movie’s own good, and they weren’t able to really give many of the subplots and characters the time they deserved. I don’t understand Fox’s arbitrary decision to make this the last X-Men movie – why are they so determined to kill off a cash cow? They could have just kept going with the series, but instead they forced the writers to wrap up every plot and subplot, logic be damned. Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater! It’s not entirely Ratner’s fault – he was just the hired gun who took the job – but it doesn’t help that he has the wrong sensibilities either. Slick and superficial is what he does best, and that’s not X-Men. It’s like hiring a porn director to make an epic love story. The Last Stand is only “fun” if you enjoy watching a great movie franchise get desecrated by its own studio.

Leave it to the animated films – specifically Over the Hedge and Cars – to deliver the only genuine fun so far this summer. I’m not particularly a fan of the “talking animals voiced by celebrities” genre of animation (that includes talking vehicles as well), but these two managed to hold my interest, and deliver a few genuine laughs. I took my nephew to both, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed them more than any of the live-action films that I’ve seen this season. That’s pretty sad.

But there’s still hope, or at least I’d like to think so. At this point, we still have Superman Returns, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, Lady in the Water, Miami Vice, Talladega Nights (please, please make fun of NASCAR) and the ubiquitous Snakes on a Plane to look forward to. Hopefully at least some of these movies will deliver the kind of excitement, adventure and solid entertainment that used to be a staple of summer moviegoing. For the serious-minded, there’s Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center – and I hope that’s the only deadly serious film I have to see until September. There will be plenty of the rough stuff come fall, and especially during Oscar season. I think I speak for most moviegoers when I say, we want our big, dumb blockbusters back. The good ones, at least. We’re ready to have some real, genuine fun at the movies again. Bring it on.

That’s all for now. I’ll be back with more reviews soon!

Posted in Psycho Therapy | Leave a Comment »

Neil Young: Heart of Gold (DVD)

Posted by CinemaPsycho on June 16, 2006

Directed by Jonathan Demme/starring Neil Young, Emmylou Harris, Ben Keith, Spooner Oldham, Rick Rosas, Pegi Young/Paramount Home Entertainment

A documentary about two concerts Young played at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium to premiere songs from his album Prairie Wind.

Neil Young is one of those rare artists who can do anything he wants, and pull it off brilliantly most of the time. He’s just one of those guys, like Dylan, Springsteen and Bowie, who breathe the rarefied air of rock stardom while at the same time possessing a true musical genius and a wandering spirit that prevents them from simply cashing in on their pasts or repeating themselves. He’s done folk, rock, country, punk, rockabilly, blues and even techno (before the word was invented) and shows no sign of slowing down.

This is my way of saying that, yes, I’m a fan, and have been for years. In an era where people apply the word “artist” to Barbie dolls like Jessica Simpson and the glorified karaoke singers of American Idle, Neil represents a certain kind of integrity that still means something to a precious few. A true “artist” is judged on his or her body of work, not on units sold or chart position, and Young’s 40-year career ranks up there with the absolute best in the history of rock music. He’s lasted so long because he’s good, because he’s prolific (still more so than perhaps any other major artist of his generation), and because he means every word he sings and every note he plays. Even though he hasn’t had a bona fide hit in about 17 years (“Rockin’ in the Free World”), Neil keeps plugging away, and the fans keep listening. It’s not a nostalgia trip – his music still matters.

As he clearly shows on Heart of Gold, it’s the music that’s important to Young, and that’s exactly what this doc celebrates. There’s no rock-star ego trips or idol worship here – it’s all about the songs. Having already explored his more rock-oriented work in previous docs such as Rust Never Sleeps and Year of the Horse, Heart of Gold heralds Young’s country-influenced material. He performed these shows at the original home of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry to premiere songs from his then-new album Prairie Wind, and also agreed to perform his classics that were written in the same vein.

Of course, it’s important to note that Young’s music was influenced by real country music, not that slick, twangy, godawful crap they play on mainstream country radio. If you’re at all familiar with Harvest or Comes a Time or Harvest Moon, you know pretty much what to expect here musically – it’s that Neil. While the new material sounds great, it’s a little difficult not to get antsy for a classic like “Old Man”, “Heart of Gold” (one of the greatest songs ever written, in my book) or “Comes a Time”, and thankfully Neil and company deliver. After about an hour. Still, even if you’re not that familiar with the songs on Prairie Wind (I have yet to pick up a copy, though I definitely will soon), this is a great way to be introduced to them.

The performances here are almost startlingly intimate, in keeping with the tradition of the Grand Ole Opry that Young is paying tribute to. This feeling is magnified by the fact that Demme never cuts away to the audience, unlike most concert films. There’s a little bit of interview footage in the beginning, but once Young and his band take the stage, the film never leaves it. So if watching a band perform isn’t your thing, you might want to put the disc on while doing something else, like house cleaning or, I don’t know, reading movie reviews on the Internet. Demme uses a lot of long takes, which somehow fits the music perfectly, but there isn’t a lot of visual spectacle here, other than seeing Young and his band dress like extras from Deadwood.

So this isn’t exactly a concert film for the ADD-afflicted MTV generation. But that actually works in the movie’s favor, because the music is powerful enough to withstand such a spare, minimalist approach. Having already made one great concert film (Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense) in much the same style, Demme is confident enough to simply show the performance, and let the music speak for itself, which is perfectly in keeping with Young’s no-bullshit methodology.

In truth, it’s the music itself and the jubilant performance of it that will be the main draw for any real Young fans anyway, not any flashy camera work or seizure-inducing editing. Much like Young’s music in general, Heart of Gold is a bit of an anachronism, a piece that ironically feels relevant because of its timelessness and pure devotion to quality. It’s so un-hip that it’s beyond hipness, and renders such superficial considerations worthless. You almost feel like it could have been made at any point in his career, and that it will last as a piece of art long after most of the current “popular music” fades from memory. Whether it’s a great concert film, I think time will have to tell on that. But right now, it’s a pretty damn good one, and I’m sure it will hold up in the years to come. It may not be perfect, but perfection isn’t the goal here – capturing this particular moment in time is, and that’s something Heart of Gold does beautifully.

The 2-disc set contains quite a bit of worthwhile extras, including 6 featurettes (with interviews with Demme, Young and his collaborators), a lengthy “Rehearsal Diaries” narrated by Demme, and a bonus performance (of Prairie Wind’s “He Was the King”) not featured in the film. The true gem, however, is a rarely seen 1971 Young performance of “The Needle and the Damage Done” from The Johnny Cash Show. Not only is it a great song, of course, but Young’s appearance is startlingly…well, young. Even if it was included here as an afterthought, it’s a perfect reminder of how long the guy’s been around and how his music still resonates after 35 years. If you’re a fan, I can honestly say this set deserves to be added to your collection. If you’re not, it’s worth a rental to see what you’re missing out on.

***1/2 6/16/06

Posted in Film Reviews | Leave a Comment »

The Omen

Posted by CinemaPsycho on June 7, 2006

Directed by John Moore/written by David Seltzer/starring Julia Stiles, Live Schreiber, Mia Farrow, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Gambon/20th Century Fox

An ambassador and his wife begin to suspect that their son may be the Antichrist. Because (spoiler ahead) he is the Antichrist. What, you didn’t see the original?

That’s not a typo above – my WordPerfect program won’t let me type Mr. Schreiber’s first name correctly. I suppose I could have rearranged the letters as “Evil” in keeping with the movie’s theme, but that’s a little too cheesy, even for me.

Anyway…as I’m writing this, it is now officially 6/7/06, which means the world hasn’t come to an end. Whew. We made it! Seriously though, Fox came up with the clever (?) gimmick of releasing a remake of the 1976 “classic” The Omen on the ominous date of 6/6/06. In fact, from what I’ve heard, the remake was only made so that Fox could capitalize on that date. I guess there are worse reasons to make a movie, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

I was convinced that this blatantly obvious attempt to lure audiences to see a hack remake on a Tuesday would be laughed off by most of the population. Naturally, I overestimated people’s willingness to be suckered in (myself included) because when I saw the film on Tuesday afternoon, the place was packed. Somewhere, William Castle is laughing. This wasn’t your typical Tuesday afternoon crowd either – no blue-haired old ladies to be found here. These were mostly the kind of people you’d see at a My Chemical Romance concert, complete with spiky hair, black lipstick and concert T-shirts. Some of them even wore pentagrams and devil horns (I swear I’m not making this up). For a certain audience, seeing this movie on this particular day had somehow become an event. I think maybe it was partially an ironic joke on their part – “oooh, let’s tempt fate, wink wink” – but whatever the motivations, it worked, and that’s all that anyone will care about when the numbers come in. I imagine seeing an Omen movie would be a different experience on, say, 6/8 or 6/12, so really, how could you not want to go on that day?

The irony of all this, of course, is that The Omen (old and new) is a horror movie that the Church Lady could love, one that takes the Christian concept of “Satan” very, very literally. Where the best modern horror films question the conventional notion of a sane, rational universe in which people are basically good and “evil” is caused only by a malevolent outside force, this movie informs us that all the fairy tales we heard in Sunday

School are the literal truth, the end is nigh and you better get yourself to a Bible right quick. What sets this apart from the likes of Left Behind or The Omega Code, I’m really not sure. Wicked death scenes, maybe?

I have to admit, my ears pricked up a little bit when notorious horror-haters Ebert and Roeper gave the remake their prized “thumbs-up”. Surely they knew the buzz on this was toxic, and how could they give their approval to what amounts to yet another needless horror remake when they came down so hard on The Hills Have Eyes just a few months ago? Their rationale being that this remake was successfully “modernized” in their eyes, whereas apparently that one wasn’t. Having seen the film now, I have to wonder if they haven’t missed the whole point yet again.

If you’re going to “update” something for the modern era, you have to make it relevant to the world that the audience currently lives in, which Hills did extremely well. Omen, on the other hand, feels hopelessly dated even with a younger cast and supposedly up-to-date effects and editing. It’s kind of like hearing a talented young band play nothing but Styx and Kansas covers – what’s the point? No matter who’s singing the song, “Come Sail Away” is going to sound like fucking “Come Sail Away”, and no one needs that.

Part of the problem is that they used the original script by Seltzer (I assume they brought in somebody to throw in the necessary references to technological advances, such as e-mail and cell phones), which is about one step removed from doing the Gus van Sant shot-for-shot remake thing. Geez, why not save even more money and just re-release the original film? So naturally, the plot is pretty much exactly the same as the original, with nary a new twist to be found. Not only that, but even people who haven’t actually seen the original film are familiar with the basic concept – that Damien is the “devil’s child” and…well, what more do you really need to know here? So it’s kind of a losing proposition for the audience either way – if you’ve seen the original, you know exactly what’s going to happen, and the film is predictable. If you haven’t seen the original, well, the whole movie is about the parents discovering that Damien is the son of Satan, and you already know that going in, so it’s still predictable. I think the original carried some level of shock at the time, even for people who knew what the film was about going in. This time, everybody knows what the deal is. It ain’t exactly The Crying Game, folks.

Yes, director Moore does attempt to show relevance here in an early sequence that attributes recent disasters like 9/11, the Columbia Space Shuttle and the tsunami to “signs of the apocalypse”. This just comes off as laughably ridiculous (and probably offensive to some) and it’s never really developed as a theme in the rest of the movie. It’s just “look, all this bad shit is happening – now here comes Damien!” I guess all the other disasters that took place in the history of mankind were merely warm-up acts for ol’ Lucifer. Other than that, this is a movie that could take place pretty much any time in the last 40 or 50 years, and doesn’t seem to bear any particular meaning for our times. Unless there are actual devil children being born that I’m unaware of, there aren’t any striking parallels to any situation happening in 2006 (and how could there be, when the script was written 30 years ago). I suppose, if one were to stretch that far, one could look at it as an allegory on the perils of child rearing in the modern era. But since Damien doesn’t act like any other kid on the planet Earth, it’s hard to really make much of that theory.

That’s another thing that really hurts the film – the damn kid. It’s possible that this young actor is really talented, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he’s directed here. There isn’t a second’s doubt that his Damien is not just “a bad kid” but rotten to the core – he’s eeeevil with a capital E. He’s inordinately pale and scrawny, with a Moe Howard haircut and a constant scowl of derision. His parents should know something’s wrong with the little bastard just from looking at him – at the very least, he looks like he’s suffering from malnutrition. Are they supposed to be so busy they don’t notice that the kid never talks, for Christ’s sake? I don’t mean he’s shy either; I mean the kid’s 5 years old and doesn’t even speak to his own goddamn parents! Come on! I believe he says one single three-word line through the entire film. You just want the idiots to shake him and say, “talk, dammit, or I’ll throw you out the window!” I mean, this is 2006 – they should have put this kid in counseling or on medication long before they suspected him of having unsavory lineage. Get him to a damn doctor and run some tests on him. Seriously.

The rest of the cast is serviceable enough, even if Stiles and Schreiber seem pretty miscast as a couple – did no one consider that it might be bad for a politician to have a wife who could pass for jailbait? I’m not opposed to casting younger if the actors are right, but I just kept wondering what could possibly bring these two together in the first place (who knows, maybe he adopted her, too). Stiles is someone who, while certainly attractive, I’ve never really warmed up to on screen that much (could be because she’s made so many stink bombs – even I couldn’t be bothered to sit through Save the Last Dance or The Prince & Me). She’s not that bad here, although she still seems like she could be Schreiber’s teenage daughter rather than his wife. For his part, Schreiber goes through the motions adequately, though he often seems to be sleepwalking through the part (which is no doubt beneath him) rather than acting. I get that he’s supposed to be stoic and all, but you would expect some emotion from a guy going through what his character does. I’ve heard lots of criticism of his being cast to fill Gregory Peck’s shoes, the main point being that he’s nowhere near “statesmanlike” enough (who is?), but I think that’s kind of the point. Honestly, can you name one modern politician who possesses the sense of dignity and honor that Gregory Peck had? I certainly can’t. So that may have been deliberate, or it might just be a case of weird casting. I could go either way.

It’s kind of fun seeing old character-actor pros like Thewlis, Postlethwaite and Gambon in a movie like this, even if they mostly seem like they’re collecting a paycheck (I mean, why else would they do this?). The casting of Mia Farrow as nasty nanny Mrs. Baylock is certainly evocative – of the wrong movie. Maybe Rosemary changed her name and switched to the other side? When you’re doing a remake, which is going to be compared to another movie, it doesn’t help your case to constantly remind the audience of another, even better movie. Bad idea.

But in all honesty, I have trouble taking this kind of superstitious nonsense seriously in this day and age, and Moore and company don’t do themselves any favors. Parts of this flick play like unintentional comedy (and were received by the audience as such) rather than the straightforward horror tale it aims to be. Especially towards the end, it just gets downright silly, and the movie becomes entertaining for all the wrong reasons. If Moore was aiming to do a parody, this would be just fine. But The Omen is supposed to be a disturbing horror film, and getting those kind of laughs doesn’t jibe with those intentions. I’m not saying Donner’s original was some sort of masterpiece, because I don’t really think that it is. But at least you could watch the thing without getting a case of the giggles. I’m not sure why Fox thought Moore, a guy who previously specialized in action films like Behind Enemy Lines and Flight of the Phoenix, was the right person to remake a beloved horror film. But this is the same studio that hired the Rush Hour guy to make an X-Men movie, and just hired the Underworld guy to make a Die Hard movie. So obviously creative consistency is not a big concern for them.

This is the fundamental difference between what people like me think makes a good horror film, and what people like Ebert and Roeper think makes a good horror film. This movie relies mostly on cheap theatrics like dream sequences with really loud music to punctuate the supposed scariness. Some people think that’s scary – even some people in the audience reacted that way. But then they realized it was all a dream, and they laughed. That’s not scary to me. I could always tell it was a dream, because I’ve seen horror movies before. I admit that I smiled a little bit whenever someone fell for a cheap shock, because it means that the movie is working for them, and I like that. But it didn’t work on me the same way. To me, The Hills Have Eyes is way scarier than this, because some really fucked-up shit happens and it and it ain’t no dream. It’s disturbing because the “evil acts” in it are committed by humans, not some monster or some devil child that couldn’t possibly exist. Monsters aren’t scary to me – people are scary because they can really do some evil shit. They do evil shit every day. Not because they are monsters, or they’re possessed by Satan. Because they’re human. Their “evil” comes from within themselves. The Devil doesn’t make them do it. They do it because they want to, and because they can.

That’s the world we live in, and movies like The Omen simply don’t reflect that. Back in 1976, people really believed in all this Satanism mumbo-jumbo, at least enough for it to freak them out. There was a genuine (if overblown by the media) fear of Satanic cults back then – people thought that human sacrifices could actually be taking place in their own neighborhoods. Movies like this capitalized on that, and maybe even perpetuated it to some extent. It was a different time, a more naïve time. As time has passed, things have become more complicated, and people’s outlooks have changed to reflect that. I don’t know a single person, religious or non-religious, who believes in Satanic cults or thinks that Satan could roam the Earth. The very idea is a fantasy, a “what if?” story that’s interesting to entertain for 2 hours. But you’d have to be functionally retarded or, at the very least, weak-minded to take it literally. “Evil” is not an outside force waiting to be let in so it can fuck everything up. Evil is within us, and everything’s already fucked up. Osama bin Laden may be evil, but he’s a human being who did an evil thing, not a monster who came from another dimension. Serial killers are human, terrorists are human, rapists are human. The best horror films are the ones that acknowledge that the true monsters are us. Some people can’t handle that idea, and I think Ebert and Roeper are among that number. But there are plenty of us who get it, and that’s why movies like this simply aren’t scary anymore.

It’s no so much that the remake is bad – it’s not badly made like The Fog remake, and it’s certainly not as misguided as the Amityville Horror remake (talk about pulling a scam on the audience). It just feels unnecessary, irrelevant. I’m not saying that every horror movie has to be a certain way, or that they can’t use things like ghosts or vampires or possibly even Satan anymore. Of course they can. But for god’s sake, come up with an idea that feels like 2006, not 1976. If you’re going to “update” something, make it relevant. Give it more weight than just cheap scares. Come up with some new ideas. Have a little more ambition than simply carbon-copying what someone else has done. Even a cover band can sound great if they know what to cover and how to do it right. The Omen, unfortunately, is basically a lounge-act version of “Carry On My Wayward Son”. And that’s not a song that anyone really needs to hear ever again.

You know what they should have done? Instead of simply remaking the original movie, they should have covered all three Omen movies in one film. Spend about 20 minutes on his childhood (hitting the highlights), maybe 30 on his teen years, then end with him rising through the political ranks to become President. But don’t portray him as an evil little fucker – spend the whole movie showing us what a great guy he is, how everyone likes him and forgives all the mistakes he makes. Then reveal the true self, the devious, calculated, Machiavellian bastard who’s intended all along to destroy the world. Now that would truly be a movie for our times.

**   6/7/06

Posted in Film Reviews | Leave a Comment »