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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir John Moore|
scr David Seltzer
with Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, Mia Farrow, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite, Michael Gambon, Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick, Reggie Austin, Richard Rees, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Janet Henfrey, Marshall Cupp
release UK/US 6.Jun.06
06/US Fox 1h50
Sweet dreams: Davey-Fitzpatrick and Stiles
Clearly, Hollywood was required to release an antichrist fright-fest on 6/6/06, but instead of coming up with something inventive, they instead pawn off this limp remake of the much classier 1976 thriller.
When his baby dies at birth in Rome, American diplomat Robert Thorn (Schreiber) accepts a priest's offer of a changeling baby so he doesn't have to tell his wife Katherine (Stiles) the awful truth. Of course, it's much more awful than even Robert knows. Five years later they're living in London (played unconvincingly by Prague), and their son Damien (Davey-Fitzpatrick) starts acting rather alarmingly demonic. After being warned by a freaked-out priest (Postlethwaite), Robert joins with a paparazzo (Thewlis), who also appears to be a crack investigative journalist as well as a learned theologian, to find out what's happening.
It's hard to understand what director Moore was going for here, since the film isn't even vaguely frightening. Sure, it's lushly shot with lots of sinister red in the set design, the music is thunderously evil and there good jolts due to extremely loud sound effects. But the rest of the film is rather draggy and silly. Davey-Fitzpatrick isn't a particularly creepy kid; Moore just gets him to stare blankly and curl the occasional lip. So the menace isn't hugely palpable.
The acting is fine. Farrow's comedy casting as the sinister but cheery nanny produces the best shock as well as the biggest laugh. Postlethwaite, Gambon and Thewlis work hard for their paycheques, chomping on the scenery without worrying that their characters make little or no logical sense. Stiles gives the most difficult, serious performance. While Schreiber is strangely vague, never quite allowed to convey his character's terrible moral dilemma.
At least the filmmakers indulge in a couple of gleefully grisly moments that almost capture the cause-and-effect fatalism of the original film (which of course spawned three Final Destination movies). And Moore does crank up that moody, gothic atmosphere. But it's unsubtle and corny, using things like shrieking noises, quick cuts to eerie imagery and constant thunderstorms to generate terror rather than actual anguish or fear. The definition of a pointless remake, basically.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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