Review: 'The First Omen'

By: Heather Seebach

Damn, two fantastic religious horror movies in one year - and they don't even involve Russell Crowe! Prequels to classic horror movies can easily be a half-assed shit-show but The First Omen is the real thing, with a genuine atmosphere of terror and moments of shocking discomfort.

Set in 1971, Margaret (Nell Tiger Free) is an American nun-in-training brought to Rome to care for children in a Catholic orphanage. She bonds with an ostracized girl named Carlita (Nicole Sorace) who has been punished by the nuns for her troubling visions. Her relationship with the girl, however, puts Margaret in danger as Father Brennan (Ralph Ineson) warns her about Carlita's connection to a nefarious conspiracy within the Church. 

The First Omen is the sixth entry in the franchise that began with the 1976 film. It explores the origins of the infamous horror villain, Damien. Naturally, the film has callbacks to the original, including a few psych-out moments that put a twist on the viewer's expectations. Some of the connections are awkwardly shoe-horned in for the sake of fan-service but they are easily overlooked with everything else this film has to offer. It is by far the scariest film of the year (so far - looking at you, Longlegs), with a perfect balance of atmospheric terror, shocking gore and creature effects, and effective jump-scares. Once the scares kick off, they are relentless. There is no filler here; just an onslaught of dread and terror. 

In the lead role, Free is incredible. She commits completely to the role, including one scene where she goes full Isabelle Adjani in Possession. I could not take my eyes off her. So too does director Arkasha Stevenson make one hell of a first impression with this feature debut. The film looks gorgeous, and I cannot wait to see what she does next.

The First Omen goes to disturbing places I never expected. There are scenes that made me squirm and will be forever seared into my brain. Without giving too much away - you can tell this movie was directed by a woman! 

Some of the plot will feel like deja vu if you saw Immaculate but the two films satisfy very different niches. Both also share unique style, fearlessness, and amazing lead actresses. They make for great sister films in a subgenre that is so lacking in quality content. 

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