Irish director John Moore admits he’s “taken a bit of flack” by crafting another remake, following The Flight of the Phoenix, which failed to take flight at the box office. But he was excited when he found out that The Omen, a 1976 horror classic that starred Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, was being remade, the director admits he was excited. “The original was one of my favourite films and the original script was so good, I knew we didn’t have to change it.” The new version is highly faithful to the original film, but the trick was making this new version contemporary.
“What we tried to do at the start of the movie is just to show people – not that they particularly need reminding – evidence of how dark a place we seemed to have gotten in such a short space of time in the world. It’s been a pretty horrible mix of manmade disaster, and some natural disaster, but I think the pessimistic sensibilities in the world, are more manmade than natural. So I think that’s relevant, because people, in their lives today, feel pessimism, and a sort of sense of pressure darkness, and that’s why it’s against that, that the story is told,” says Moore.
To enhance the film’s contemporary tone, he cast younger than in the original, replacing Peck and Remick, with Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles. “We cast that way really for a generation of people who haven’t seen the film – which by default makes them younger – because I identify a little more with them, and to make them more approachable. You know the idea is that at the beginning of the movie you get to watch this couple’s life and their relationship bloom, to build it up only to have it torn down. I thought casting younger might give me a better chance to do that. It also allowed me to use real actors. I mean we have a knockout cast, so we cast the movie up in my opinion, but the point of that is we went with actors who can convey complex performances without being movie stars. Look at Da Vinci Code. I haven’t seen the movie but Tom Hanks is personally a turnoff for me.”
While the original Oman spawned two sequels, Moore doesn’t have any intention to embark on a new Omen trilogy. “It’s a phenomenon to me and I think it’s a particularly American phenomenon that they felt the need to somehow maybe reach towards the idea that the bad guy loses or the good guy wins – or maybe it was just an incredibly lucrative decision. But I think the point of David Seltzer’s work was to demonstrate and illustrate that the bad guy wins in this scenario. So I think that to do a sequel wouldn’t be prudent.”
And as in the original, Moore is unconcerned at the idea that at a time when audiences are used to good guys triumphing, that evil succeeds over good. “I think and hope that they’ll embrace the notion. There’s a good old-fashioned chill at the end of the movie and that’s very much a part of the entertainment experience of the film, but what you’re thinking about on your way through the car park, I hope, is the very fact that evil has triumphed and that complicity in that triumph is something that we all have to watch out for.”
Having done two remakes, Moore laughs when asked if The Omen is his last stab at a remake. “I think that would probably be prudent, unless there’s a great box set out there.” John has no idea what’s immediately next but he likes the idea of scaring audiences. “My first attempt at scaring people in the movie has proven to be pretty addictive. It’s a lot of fun to make a movie whereby the audience’s experience of the movie is so immediate, emotional and visceral. So I’ve enjoyed the sort of psychological thriller genre and as a result I’m kind of keeping my eyes peeled for something of that ilk.”
It’s clear that the Irish director is having a devil of a good time scaring a new generation of horror fans.