The First Omen Review

The First Omen
1971, Rome. A young American woman (Nell Tiger Free) begins a life of service to the church. But her convent is hiding some dark secrets, with a conspiracy brewing that could bring about evil incarnate…

by Catherine Bray |
Published on
Release Date:

05 Apr 2024

Original Title:

The First Omen

It’s always the way — you wait years for a pregnancy-focused nunsploitation movie, and then three come along within about a month. We’ve had Immaculate, with Sydney Sweeney, seemingly knocked up by the good Lord; Maria Vera Ratti pregnant with twins (one the Antichrist, one the Second Coming) in Deliver Us; and now The First Omen, a prequel to the 1976 landmark horror about a young boy who could be the devil incarnate.

The First Omen

You don’t need to have seen the original film to get to grips with this one, though. From the straight-out-of-the-box character types, to the employment of various horror tropes (hello, creepy children’s drawings!), it’s all going to feel recognisable to anyone with a passing familiarity with religion-themed horror movies. Shadowy robes hanging on the wall that could be a lurking menace? Check. Little girls in white dresses singing a creepy song? Check. Ancient engravings giving off absurdly cursed vibes? Of course! And populating the convent where most of the action goes down, we have a fairly pleasing line-up of typical movie nuns: stern mother superior Sister Silva (Sônia Braga), intense believer Sister Anjelica (Ishtar Currie-Wilson), BFF Luz (Maria Caballero), and new-in-town novice nun Margaret (Nell Tiger Free).

It takes a while to go beyond the signs and portents stage and get into the meat of the plot.

In the lead, Free gives a sympathetic performance as the wide-eyed innocent who seems troubled by hints of a dark past, while Bill Nighy makes a welcome appearance in full cassock as an urbane cardinal; nobody can casually throw away ripe lines like, “The miracle of life can be a messy business,” quite like Nighy.

The elements are all here, but it takes a while for the action to go beyond the signs and portents stage and get into the meat of the plot. There’s a general sense that less would have been more: the film is crying out for tighter editing — too often, we’ve got what we need from a scene but then it just keeps going. Still, despite pacing issues, the gnarly set-pieces (Birthing a monster! Convenient car crash! Non-consensual C-section!) take a satisfyingly no-half-measures approach.

For veteran viewers who’ve seen it all before, it’s not exactly the Second Coming. But novice nunsploitation audiences might find this habit-forming: a stylish enough entry-level initiation.
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