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  • Writer's pictureJamie

The First Omen - Review

Nun horror is on the rise, trend alert alarms are sounding and excited cheers at religious horror films are  ringing through the nation. 

The First Omen follows on from Immaculate which has both the same and opposite storyline running through it, and weirdly they feel pretty equal in quality, even if I liked them for different reasons. 

The Omen franchise is one that I feel has slipped by without the over commercialisation in the ways that Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street have. The First Omen marks the sixth film in the franchise, and fittingly takes on the first of the “Omens”, setting the stage for the 1976 original to begin. My knowledge of the franchise is a scared watch of the 70s original when I was 11 and I only found out about the five followups before seeing this one, so you can be sure that going into this one, you don’t need prior knowledge of the franchise. 

We’re thrown into the idyllic views of Rome, with an opening of Father Brennan (Ralph Ineson) detailing a picture of baby Scianna, who we find out a little bit more about as we go through. 

Margaret (Nell Tiger Free) is moving to Rome from the US as she has been asked to join an orphanage run by nuns. She very quickly sees that not everything is quite as idyllic as our initial views of Rome and that the church may be using unconventional methods to try and regain power with the rising political lobbying against the church.

The baby Scianna referred to in the opening is a girl from the orphanage, Carlita (Nicole Sorace), who Margaret takes a liking to, as most of the nuns treat her poorly and warn Margaret about her behavioural issues. 

The film has done a very good job with its marketing, not giving away very much at all through its trailers and secondary promo materials like Instagram campaigns. It is always exciting to see horror films do well with their marketing through the hype build up. With films like this, and Smile, we have seen a really creative marketing approach that doesn’t just rely on posers and trailers to get people talking. 

The main thing that has gotten people talking since its release is the scares included in the film. For me, I felt a hunger for more of them because anything included in it was set up and executed really effectively. There are some creative scares in this one, and also ones that do a really good job at setting up an expected jump, only to leave you with a lingering fear that slowly dies until it's heightened again through another setup. The longer runtime of two hours isn’t felt through these moments of tension and story “lulls”. 

Horror is not exactly known for its depth, but I feel that The First Omen really attentively sets up its characters, especially Margaret, to be one you do care about and feel towards in the moments of peril. Usually you just watch on in horror at the events unfolding, but Nell Tiger Free’s performance and Maragert’s character is written to give you an extra layer of empathy that intensifies the feelings during these times. 

The secondary characters lack the level of care that Margaret is given which at times makes her feel like an island when she is meant to be supported. I think some of these characters do make the story chug in parts where it is usually going strong. 

The look of The First Omen is very strong, from the warmth of Rome, coldness of the horror or the grotesque body horror. The camera almost mirrors a classic postcard from Rome with the grainy, orange presentation of the city, lulling you into a nice film where everyone is happily “Rome-ing” about and having a good time. 

This is starkly contrasted against the coldness of the orphanage at times, where all the joy is so quickly sucked out of the film and without much else than the camera and music fills you with intense dread. The building used is classically bricky and old, so the darkness of some of the corridors feel big and empty. 

The First Omen does a good job at lifting the horror genre for 2024 along with Immaculate. They have both shown that we can still do good horror films. It was a shaky shaky start to the year but the future of evil looks bright with these inclusions. While the whole Omen franchise is not exactly regarded as horror masterwork, this entry to the franchise has peaked my interest enough to venture into the sequels and see where these promising characters go to. 

Also, tiny little end note; Arkasha Stevenson not only directed this film beautifully but was also involved in a Netflix series, directing one episode of Brand New Cherry Flavor. A series that is insanely gross in a way that you can't look away from. If you can stomach it and haven't seen it, its worth a try!


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