THE FIRST OMEN Actually Exceeds Expectations

The Omen franchise has a tremendous first installment but has never been able to come very close with its sequels. As I often do, I went into this movie blindly without watching any trailers, but I had heard some rumors that it is strikingly similar to Immaculate, a movie on which I was somewhat lukewarm. Regardless of one’s thoughts about Immaculate, I still highly recommend checking out The First Omen. Not only is it a great prequel film, but it also does better what Immaculate was trying to accomplish.

Catholic nun novitiate Margaret Daino (Nell Tiger Free) gets assigned to serve at a church and orphanage in Rome before taking her final vows as a nun. As Margaret works with the children, she connects with a very “troubled” girl named Carlita (Nicole Sorace), a young pre-teen struggling to follow the program’s strict rules. As Margaret spends more time at the church and orphanage, she realizes something very wrong and, perhaps, sinister is happening there. It eventually becomes apparent that dark forces, along with some of the people in charge, are playing with the forces of evil, particularly that of the Devil.

The First Omen, written and directed by Arkasha Stevenson, effectively delivers fright, shocks, and tension. The film’s direction, along with the crew’s efforts, successfully recreates the atmosphere of The Omen, making it a genuine prequel. The movie also offers a thought-provoking commentary on the issues within the Catholic Church and how they exploit human fears for their benefit.

Now, I know these themes sound almost identical to those of Immaculate, but the filmmakers of this movie are more effective in their presentation and delivery. My biggest gripe with Immaculate has to do with the ineffectual jump scares. When the filmmakers employ jump scares here, they work their magic. Also, the cast in this movie is much more credible in their respective roles, particularly the performance of Neil Tiger Free, who is outstanding as Margaret.

I will say that this movie’s ending does not have the same impact as that of Immaculate, but that aspect alone is where Immaculate is superior. This film has the responsibility of leading up to the events of The Omen, so that is where this movie falls a bit short. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how great The First Omen is, and I hope the film is successful enough for Arkasha Stevenson to get more work to show her undeniable skills.

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