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‘THE FIRST OMEN’ Movie Review: A Distinct and Bold Outing for The Omen Series and a Stellar Directorial Debut

The nun-pregnancy trope seems to be a common theme in horror films this year. With Sydney Sweeney taking on the habit with Immaculate, it’s hard for The First Omen to blaze an original trail without being inevitably compared to the film that came before. In fact, I just fell into that same trap in this review – literally the preamble.

However, The First Omen may have clinched itself the win – even becoming one of the better horror franchise films of recent years.

The First Omen serves as a prequel set a year before the original film. Taking place in Rome, the movie follows Margaret, a young American novitiate who hopes to make her pledge to God and Christ by serving at the Vizzardeli Orphanage. However, her head is turned by an ostracised orphan Carlita and the unnerving series of events that stalk her. Soon Margaret is thrust into the centre of a gruelling demonic plot.

With her directorial debut, The First Omen, Arkasha Stevenson delivers a thrillingly terrifying and visually gorgeous film. She establishes herself as a skilled director with this carefully crafted period piece which boasts absolutely stunning cinematography by Aaron Morton. The film is overflowing with vivid, striking images. While staying true to the spirit of the original, Stevenson also imprints the film with her own distinct style and vision, marking the arrival of a distinct and fresh directorial talent.

Nell Tiger Free carved her name as a bona fide Scream Queen when she starred as the illusive and mysterious nanny in M. Night Shyamalan’s Apple TV Series “The Servant.”  Here she is simply astonishing. She expertly portrays the character’s evolution from a wide-eyed novice to a troubled soul spiraling into pure insanity in the final act. A demanding physical sequence late in the film requires Free to contort and transform into a monstrous being, which she accomplishes exquisitely.

The First Omen powerfully depicts allegorical abuses by the church and the absolute violation of women’s bodies during sex and pregnancy. Gruesome scenes and twisted horror hit the mark, including an early birth scene that is nearly faint-inducing.

There are a few minor flaws that hold it back from being a perfect horror film. Most notably, the casting of Bill Nighy in a prominent role that is ultimately underutilized makes some of the climatic events feel somewhat underwhelming. This may be a personal preference but when hinting at a monster, it is often scarier when the full form is never revealed. A creepy crawly, a slimy hand, a shadow on the wall – that causes the heart to palpitate a bit more than seeing the beast. Unfortunately, The First Omen includes something which takes away the spookiness just a tad. Even so, there are moments and images in The First Omen that you will never be able to forget. An assured outing for The Omen series and a stellar debut for Stevenson. With just a bit more finesse, she could deliver an undisputed masterpiece of atmospheric horror.

VERDICT:

The First Omen releases exclusively in theaters on April 5th, 2024.

Where to watch THE FIRST OMEN
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