David Seltzer

David Seltzer

David Seltzer Quick Links

News Film RSS

The Omen (1976) Review


OK
The Omen is not as serious a movie as it appears. Coming to the modern audience as the infant in a Holy trinity of satanic, apocalyptic horror films, including The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby, The Omen arrives leaden with reputation and expectation. Its story is renowned, its sequences remembered, and its delicious score is an iconic pop-cultural phenomenon. On the surface of things, Richard Donner's film matches its Trinitarian peers shock for shock. However, as little Damian proves, not everything is as it seems. Though garbed in the accoutrements of its satanic predecessors, it is at its core a story of gross implausibility and squandered potential, a schlocky piece of fluff shot and cut with unwarranted earnestness. When poked and prodded, when the hair is cut away, the film is essentially a pretty good bad movie.

The story of the devil's son born to the American politician begins with a moment that only reveals its ridiculousness in retrospect: when Ambassador to Italy Robert Thorn's (Gregory Peck) first-born dies moments after birth, he is offered, and accepts, an abandoned child as replacement. He does this so that his wife Katherine (Lee Remick) is spared the torment of the death. I know politics is pragmatic, but really. With any moral quibbles twitched away by a few hard long stares, the Thorns take up shop in England when Robert receives a promotion. The years pass in dreary montage and Damian (a creepily cute Harvey Stephens) grows to age five in blissful British tranquility. Naturally, when his nanny (Holly Palance) hangs herself on his sixth birthday, announcing "It's all for you Damian," things change.

Continue reading: The Omen (1976) Review

The Omen (2006) Review


Good
My favorite character in John Moore's remake of The Omen is the Pope. I am not entirely sure which Pope it is, and it is more of a cameo role really, but every time the pontiff graced the screen, I knew why I liked this film so much. He first features in a brief conference scene. His cardinals (I presume) are concerned that a recent meteor shower is the final sign of the birth of the Anti-Christ, as predicted by the book of Revelations. These concerns are presented to the Pope in a multimedia display, with numerous screens airing a student film depicting scenes from the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia to September 11. In his second appearance, after hearing some disturbing news, the Pope drops his glass of red on the floor, while still in bed. I have never been to Vatican City, but I doubt this is how things go down. Yet, the film's disconnectedness from the laws of reality, personified here by its treatment of the leader of the Catholic Church, got me. Richard Donner's original Omen was a pig in a cocktail dress, a silly story treated with undeserving earnestness. Here, John Moore tells it like it should be told.Turns out the cardinals were on to something and the Anti-Christ is born. The unfortunate Anti-Joseph and Anti-Mary are Robert and Katherine Thorn (Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles), the deputy to the U.S. ambassador to Italy and his young wife. When Katherine gives birth to a boy who dies just outside the hospital room, Robert accepts the offer of a priest at the hospital, taking in the child's place a baby boy whose mother died during labor and letting Katherine believe it is theirs. They name him Damien (cue choirs). After a bizarre explosion (so massive in scale it proves the devil doesn't pay for petrol) in which the U.S. ambassador dies, Robert takes the position and a promotion to the U.K. The family lives in British manor house bliss until, at a very public birthday for Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), his nanny hangs herself, shrieking, "It's all for you!" From that moment forward the dangers of raising the Anti-Christ begin to become obvious. The black dogs begin to bark, monkeys screech, priests prophesize and a very un-Doubtfire-like nanny, Mrs Baylock (Mia Farrow), shows up to keep an eye on things.Moore doesn't stray widely from the path of the original's narrative and most changes made are welcome. I liked seeing a bit of determination in Damien's face. I liked that Katherine was young and seemed to be suffering post-partum depression. A lot of the dialogue is admittedly laughable, and Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Gambon as over-caffeinated priests add to a sense of the ludicrous. However, this only compounds its The Omen's minor brilliance. Everything is overdone: Damien sleeps on red silk sheets; people at the party start running and knocking over tables when the nanny kills herself; an interview with an old crippled man is conducted outside in the snow. The horror scenes are equally flamboyant; Marco Beltrami's score may lack the original's Latinized theme, but it kicks in to stunning and loud effect practically every time the lights go out.Schreiber is good as the politician and after a shaky start Stiles communicates her anguish very well. But it is Farrow (next to the Pope, of course) who steals the show. Her Mary Poppins performance oozes subtle menace in every sweet grin and glittery eye. When she unleashes eventually, it provides for the film's most exciting sequence - if you have dreamed for the day Rosemary would take on the Manchurian Candidate, dream no more. Though some critics might begrudge the film its directness, its loudness, perhaps its lack of class or cinematic restraint, I reveled in it. The story of Damien has always seemed a little stupid to me, and here Moore has matched the story with its telling. The result is fun, in a scary/jokey kind of way. I am not sure if John Moore is in on the joke he's telling in his remake of The Omen, but he tells it very well.If only she could do one pull-up.

Dragonfly Review


Grim
Dragonfly asks us: When someone you love dies... are they gone forever? It also answers by saying: Apparently not -- they haunt you until you go crazy, pummeling you with insects and kooky drawings. My kind of love, baby.

The love in Dragonfly is the wife of poor Joe Darrow (Kevin Costner), an emergency medicine doctor in Chicago. She's also a doctor -- a pediatric oncologist named Emily -- and for some reason, she decides to head for Venezuela to do a little Peace Corps-style work, presumably to exorcise her upper class guilt.

Continue reading: Dragonfly Review

My Giant Review


Grim
Just barely entertaining yawn about a talentless talent scout who recruits a Romanian giant to be a movie star. Tries to be funny, exciting, romantic, and heartwarming all at once, and fails at all four. That darn giant!!!

Shining Through Review


Terrible
Shining Through, the 1992 Melanie Griffith WWII espionage vehicle, scares me. If the U.S. government really behaved in any way as it does here, then "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" would be our national anthem. Shining Through is not a documentary or a Stephen Ambrose adaptation, but director/writer David Seltzer (Lucas) is presenting this as historical drama.

The movie revolves around baby-voiced Griffith posing as a domestic (from Düsseldorf, no less) for a high-ranking Nazi (Liam Neeson), tending to his kids while picking up information on the sly. That's not a bad idea, but it becomes a terrible idea since Griffith makes no attempt at a German accent. You keep wondering how the Nazis were able to make a sandwich. They maintained a military juggernaut? Thank God they were so oblivious.

Continue reading: Shining Through Review

Nobody's Baby Review


Grim
"When two escaped cons find an orphaned baby, their lives go from the state pen to the playpen...."

Whoa whoa whoa, hold it right there. How does Gary Oldman get involved with a con+baby movie!? I guess if you promise to get the film into Sundance (where it was originally exhibited), anything goes these days.

Continue reading: Nobody's Baby Review

David Seltzer

David Seltzer Quick Links

News Film RSS