Movie Review: The First Omen: Prequel Horror Creates an Unsettling Fear you won’t soon Forget

By: Ica Hontiveros-Cheng

(L-R): Sonia Braga as Silvia and Nell Tiger Free as Margaret in 20th Century Studios’ THE FIRST OMEN. Photo by Moris Puccio. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

I came into ‘The First Omen’ without having any or much knowledge about the original film/s (What do you mean there are five Omen movies?!) If you know me, Horror is not exactly my favorite genre. (It’s my least favorite! I’m a big scaredy cat!) Especially when it comes to Religious Horror, more specifically the Catholic religion. Yes, the very religion that is written on my birth certificate. I also grew up in an all girls Catholic school. From preschool until College. 

I even have a minor in Theology, because we always had a Theology subject every semester, even if my course was Nursing. So yeah, I’m familiar with the stories and themes.

So yes, I’ve come to know a number of nuns in my formative years. I had an American nun as my Algebra teacher. I can never forget the sad and longing look on her face as she was watching the news on the twin towers on TV. Our former school principal, who was a nun, loved photography, even before it became cool and popular. I know of a nun who has a strong will and is a tough cookie, she is a staunch advocate of the environment. So you see, they’re not as bad as what horror films make them out to be.   

I think that religious horror films have pretty much saturated the genre in general. (Which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed ‘Exhuma’ so much. It was a refreshing Asian horror that also dealt with Feng Shui and Korean culture and history.) 

There is such a fascination with it (Roman Catholic religion) . And honestly can you blame the many writers and scribes who have taken a stab into this kind of horror? The book of Revelations alone has some pretty disturbing images. And why does (some) Catholic art seem to be soo creepy?

Bill Nighy as Lawrence in 20th Century Studios’ THE FIRST OMEN. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

‘The First Omen’ shines the most by delivering imagery that is so frightening, and unsettling, you are sure to think about them long after seeing the movie. Kudos to the production design for the meticulous work on the set, costumes, and even some pretty scary practical effects, that were so visceral you can actually feel the slime on your face. (You’ll know it when you see it.) I have a wince on my face as I am typing this, just because the visuals were so effective and now the rather disturbing images are still flashing in my head. Hence the R16 rating. The film also contains some disturbing body horror that can be triggering or traumatizing, especially for women. I spent time as a student nurse assisting births in tertiary hospitals and even I was taken aback by some of the scenes. The sound design is also sure to mess with your head. Adding to the already eerie atmosphere. 

Nell Tiger Free as Margaret in 20th Century Studios’ THE FIRST OMEN. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Another strength of ‘The First Omen’ is the addition of the lead character Margaret, played to utmost dedication by Nell Tiger Free, she the real MVP. For Game of Thrones fans, she played Myrcella Baratheon in seasons 5 and 6 of Game of Thrones. So Charles Dance isn’t the only Game of Thrones alum in this film.  

Being a prequel ‘The First Omen’ does not ask too much from its audiences, sure if you’ve followed the franchise, or at least seen the original 1976 film you could probably point out a few easter eggs here and there. Unfortunately, being a prequel to an established franchise also has setbacks, such as a limited direction for the story, to keep in the continuity and all. I have to commend the writers though for still being able to throw a surprise or two in there. 

All in all, I enjoyed ‘The First Omen’ more than I thought that I would, and as someone who isn’t a big fan of horror, that says a lot. Now excuse me while I wash my eyes out with holy water and say a prayer or two. *Crosses self*