The First Omen movie poster

The First Omen

In theaters April 5, 2024

Rated

120 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , ,

Both a prequel and (possible) reboot, Arkasha Stevenson’s The First Omen (2024) reintroduces the world to Richard Donner’s Anti-Christ from his 1976 film, The Omen. Whether or not this film sparks a creative reinvention of the existing material to fit, it’s a development I’m keen to watch unfold.

Sister Margaret (Nell Tiger Free) is a young Novitiate from America who has been chosen to take her vows in Rome. While preparing for the final ceremony, she is assigned to an orphanage and women’s hospital. Margaret shares an apartment with fellow novitiate Luz (Maria Caballero) who’s determined to experience everything she’s about to give up (at least once). While familiarizing herself with the day to day activities of the orphanage, Margaret becomes fascinated with Carlita (Nicole Sorace), one of the orphans. Carlita is older, quiet, and spends a lot of time in “the Bad Room”, an isolating space set aside for the troubled children. Margaret wants to connect with Carlita, being a former troubled child herself, but run afoul of the Abbess, Sister Silva (Sonia Braga) for not focusing on the reason she’s in Rome. Meanwhile, Father Brennen (Ralph Ineson) has been tasked with finding a very specific child at the orphanage, one who is being specifically groomed to be the mother of the Anti-Christ. Approaching Margaret with the mission of uncovering the child is difficult, as her faith in God doesn’t extend to a faith in a breathing Satan. It doesn’t help that Margaret has an unsteady past of her own to reconcile before believing in demons.

The First Omen nails the 1970s satanic panic/nunsploitation like Michael Winner’s The Sentinel (1977) and giallo filmmaker, Bruno Mattei’s The Other Hell (1980), both in the overall look, and ethereal pacing. 1971 Rome, from costumes to cars to music to cinematography feels meticulously researched, allowing the setting and atmosphere settle into a background process without being obtrusive. Nell Tiger Free is the naïve, skittish Margaret, whose “troubled” past is sheltered compared to what she’s about to go up against. Sonia Braga is Sister Silvia who is every nun we’ve ever been afraid of and for solid reasons. Ralph Ineson replaces Patrick Troughton as Father Brennen, but this time around there is a sad desperation that was missing the first time around. There isn’t a campy bone in The First Omen and nothing is intentionally played for cheap laughs.

Stevenson knows you’ve probably seen The Omen, so there’s no need to rush The First Omen’s final destination. What is offered instead is a comprehensive mythology as to the whys of the Church’s almost logical involvement, and it’s a theory I can’t help but be interested in. The First Omen splits in key areas from The Omen in terms of canon, which will spark interesting (if potentially contentious) conversations. I have my own theories as to how this could spin out, woven through the existing movies. It’s my hope that despite this being Film Number Six, it actually foregoes Damien: Omen II (1978), Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981), the made for TV film, Omen IV: The Awakening (1991), and the 2006 remake because we’ve seen them and we can fairly admit, they weren’t very good the first time around.

The First Omen is absolutely not your mother’s horror movie. With a few deliberate callbacks to the original Omen, there is some graphic imagery that will stay with you for a while. This film is more than a compilation of jump scares and flying birds, and for 120 minutes, it’s an engrossing stroll through what could have been, or what may be. For all of the talk of remakes and reboots across other franchises (that have failed, and miserably), I think Arkasha Stevenson got this one right.

The First Omen (2024) is Rated R for swears, drinking, demonic vaginal births, spiders, car accidents, bi-sections, c-sections, people getting stabbed, self-immolation, hanging, and, you know, the Devil.

The First Omen is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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