When Gus Van Sant was asked exactly what the point of making a shot for shot remake of a classic (in his case, Psycho) he responded, “So nobody else has to.” Director John Moore obviously wasn’t listening, because what he has managed to produce is the ultimate in pointless exercises, a remake that is neither much better nor much worse that the original.
Accordingly, when in Richard Donner’s 1976 studio shocker Damien’s nanny flings herself of the roof yelling, “It’s all for you Damien!” (surely a gift of Pokemon or Lego would have been more appropriate) we get a shot by shot retread of the scene in the 2006 version. Suspicious photographer Jennings discussed the American Ambassador’s satanic son with him at a snow-flecked roadside cafe, so it is to a snow-flecked roadside cafe that David Thewlis and Liev Schreiber go in this redundant retread.
Moore has thrown in a little more gore and a few subliminal shocks - and there are a range of succulently hammy turns from the likes of Pete Postlethwaite and Mia Farrow (nodding to her starring role in the same era’s Rosemary’s Baby) but for the most part has followed the original screenplay with uncanny slavishness. Which makes it odd that Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score, which has forever associated screeching choirs with diabolical doings, is missing from the mix.
The overwhelming impression is of a lost opportunity, given that the current American administration’s sinister attempts to infect politics with religion provide a contemporary backdrop even more fertile for this Mephistopholean melodrama than the post-Vietnam paranoia that boosted the original movie, though the final shot, of Damien holding the hand of the President – the back of whose head bears a passing resemblance to George Bush’s – at least demonstrates that Moore and co. noticed the possibilities.