The Omen may be 40 years old this year, but it's somehow become the hottest property in horror in 2016. In addition to A&E's sequel series Damien (which, truth be told, isn't garnering the kind of ratings the network probably hoped for), an Omen prequel movie is now in the works with indie darling Antonio Campos — whose 2016 biopic Christine, about tragic Florida TV reporter Christine Chubbuck, was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival — attached to direct.
Fittingly titled The First Omen, the film is being produced by David Goyer for 20th Century Fox, the studio behind both the original film and its three less-successful sequels, including the made-for-TV stinker Omen IV: The Awakening.
I actually rewatched The Omen fairly recently, and truth be told, I'd forgotten how hokey the thing is. The fact that it grossed boatloads of money in 1976 makes sense: it's broadly entertaining, occasionally very scary (who can forget “It's all for you!”) and solidly directed by Richard Donner, who perfectly walked the line between the artistic and the commercial in his treatment of the material. But in the scheme of the Satanic horror film boom of the late '60s and early-mid '70s, it's a lesser beast than both Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, both of which brought real smarts and thematic sophistication to their literally devilish conceits.
Despite its inferior quality, The Omen remains just as iconic as both of those films — and this being Hollywood, there is much to be gained commercially from dredging up the property yet again (it also spawned a financially successful, albeit critically eviscerated, remake in 2006). While the Glen Mazzara-created Damien hasn't exactly set the world on fire, as far as the prequel goes there is some hope to be gleaned from the attachment of Campos, a thirtysomething filmmaker who has already helmed three acclaimed indies — in addition to Christine, he was responsible for two intriguing sociopathic character studies, the Grand Jury Prize-nominated Simon Killer in 2012 and 2008's Afterschool starring Ezra Miller, which garnered him a nomination for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards.
There is something to be said for hiring visionary young directors to direct remakes and sequels of successful horror properties. Since they're inevitably going to be made anyway, those responsible might as well get someone with an interesting voice behind the lens (as Donner proved in '76, it's possible to make something artful and commercial simultaneously). It bears noting that Blumhouse recently hit on something similar with Mike Flanagan, the acclaimed director of Oculus and Hush whom they hired to direct the sequel to their critically-lambasted, hugely successful teen horror film Ouija; same with Sony, who brought Honeymoon director Leigh Janiak on board to write and direct their upcoming remake of 1996's The Craft. If these efforts prove financially successful, perhaps they can point the way for a new, more considered era of horror franchise revivals.