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  • Writer's pictureAlex First

The First Omen (MA) - 119 minutes

The First Omen is about the depths to which the church will go to maintain power and control.

 

It is 1971 and a young American woman, Margaret Daino (Nell Tiger Free), moves from America to Rome to become a nun.

 

Daino was a wayward child, an orphan, who saw the way forward when she was mentored by Cardinal Lawrence (Bill Nighy).

The Cardinal is there to meet and encourage the woman who loves life and the church when she arrives at the centre of Catholicism.

 

Daino is in the novitiate phase (the probationary period) of her spiritual journey.

 

She is housed in an orphanage for girls run by the Abbess, Sister Silva (Sonia Braga), who oversees the nuns and novitiates that live there.

What greets Daino though is hardly what she expected.

 

First up, her roommate Luz Valez (Maria Caballero), who has had much less of a sheltered upbringing, encourages Daino to let her hair down.

 

A big night on the town follows.

 

Secondly, at the orphanage Daino is intrigued by and takes to the oldest girl there, Carlita Skianna (Nicole Sorace), who is isolated and ostracised,

 

Sister Silva warns Daino about Skianna, but the latter has witnessed horrors at the orphanage, to which Daino also becomes privy.

It is then that Irish priest Father Brennan (Ralph Ineson) seeks out Daino to warn her of a terrifying conspiracy within the church, one that will envelope her.

 

The First Omen is a prequel to the classic horror film franchise that began with Richard Donner’s The Omen, starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick, in 1976.

 

That introduced us to Damien, the Antichrist.

 

The First Omen has been co-written and is directed by Arkasha Stevenson, who cut her teeth on TV series. This marks her feature film debut.

 

Thanks partly to lighting and sound and some eye-opening close-up photography, it has shock value.

 

In other words, it bites before the story becomes preposterous.

I appreciated the wide-eyed innocence and realisation that all is not what it seems displayed by Nell Tiger Free.


So, too, the characterisation by Sonia Braga as the head of the orphanage, who is privy to much more than she lets on.

 

Maria Caballero adds spice as the party girl nun in the making.

 

Ralph Ineson leans into his role as the troubled man of the cloth, who fears the worst.

 

Nicole Sorace provides an edginess as the orphan surrounded by a sinister darkness.

Before this is over, the filmmakers have angled for a sequel, The First Omen being a vehicle to reboot the franchise.

 

How best to enjoy the offering? Suspend belief and allow the jump scares and creepiness to take over.

 

Rated MA, The First Omen scores a 7 out of 10.

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