The First Omen Is Lackluster and Full of Poor Choices

The First Omen still of Margaret (Nell Tiger Free) and Carlita (Nicole Sorace) looking up.

While it’s okay for audiences to be in the know while the lead remains in the dark, the gap between the two in The First Omen is too egregious.

The First Omen starts with potential. It’s tense, mysterious, and shows gore at the outset. After all, there’s a suspicious religious sect, a search for a baby in a picture, and many odd moments and people. But that potential becomes bogged down in unnecessary imagery, pointless stylistic shots, or prolonged scenes that feel pointless. A prequel for a beloved, chilling film, the movie could earn audience goodwill based on that alone. Unfortunately, The First Omen is unintentionally funny in the worst way, as characters make nonsensical decisions. 

Written by Tim Smith, Arkasha Stevenson, and Keith Thomas and directed by Arkasha Stevenson, the film is about a young woman, Margaret (Nell Tiger Free), who moves from America to Rome to become a nun. While there, frightening occurrences lead her to believe a group is trying to orchestrate the birth of evil. The First Omen has moments where it’s so bad it’s funny. But soon, it downgrades to just bad with little sense.

The First Omen Starts With Mystery

The First Omen still of Father Brennan (Ralph Ineson) talking.
Ralph Ineson as Father Brennan in 20th Century Studios’ THE FIRST OMEN. Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

It all started so promising with a “Who’s that girl.” When Father Brennan (Ralph Ineson) meets with Father Harris (Charles Dance), Harris tells him that a group plotted to ensure a woman gives birth to another woman who will give birth to the antichrist. As he tells the story, flashes of what one woman went through plays across the screen. Fortunately, the film avoids graphic portrayals of the assault. After all, seeing a masked woman’s harrowed breathing is fear-inducing enough. 

When the first death occurs, it’s brutally graphic and also eerie as the victim gives a chilling smile before their demise. Here, The First Omen inspires hope that it knows how to build up a tense story and toe the line between scenes that must be graphic and those where leaving it to the audience works better. With Margaret’s arrival, one weird occurrence after another builds mounting dread. Yet, it’s hard to feel sympathetic because it is not believable. 

Dialogue and Chemistry Does Not Help

While so much happens, it’s impossible to believe Margaret stayed around. Whether that’s from Nell Tiger Free’s performance is debatable. But the story’s course and a brief reference to Margaret’s past do little to justify her choices. Look, on her first day with the orphaned Carlita (Nicole Sorace), the kid licks her face. On top of that, she learns they keep Carlita locked away, separated from everyone else. And a horrifyingly serene nun is constantly lurking, staring, and smiling at her. 

The First Omen still of Margaret (Nell Tiger Free) standing in a dimly-lit tunnel.
Nell Tiger Free as Margaret in 20th Century Studios’ THE FIRST OMEN. Photo by Moris Puccio. © 2024 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

And she remains, supposedly because she sees Cardinal Lawrence (Bill Nighy) as a father because she’s known him since childhood. Yet, none of their interactions suggest any hint of closeness beyond a Cardinal and future nun. Before long, too many around Margaret scream, “Villain.” While it’s okay for audiences to be in the know while the lead remains in the dark, the gap between the two in The First Omen is too egregious. Margaret even ignores cryptic comments just because.

Pick a Struggle

Not only does the film fail at building a believable chain of events, but moments meant to be dread-inspiring are just downright hilarious. There is a scene with Margaret where she breathes, grunts, and jerks for minutes. It just looked like extreme breath meditation or a Lamaze class of one with intermittent “get off me” jerks. As a matter of fact, look at that scene and then watch Dewayne’s dance scene in The Blackening. They are similar. But only one is meant to be funny

By the end of The First Omen, there are no surprises. Graphic horror moments feel unnecessary in a film that cannot achieve terror without them. Plus, it’s easy to discern the mystery long before the hints become siren-sounding signs. Finally, its final note feels less horror and more action-packed Van Helsing ludicrous. The First Omen fails to deliver scares and shocks without purpose, and though laughable, it’s not the kind to revisit. 

1 thought on “The First Omen Is Lackluster and Full of Poor Choices”

  1. I wish I’d read this review before watching the film. It’s spot on. And it doesn’t get any more laughable than the scene in which the Cardinal blesses the infant anti-Christ in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

DarkSkyLady Reviews