‘The First Omen’: Haunting beginnings of the Antichrist | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Nell Tiger Free and Nicole Sorace in Arkasha Stevenson’s ‘The First Omen’ | Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

A visceral experience bathed in bloody, satanic body horror



“The First Omen” represents the new age of Catholic horror that recycles the “deal with the devil” archetype but transforms it to a whole new level. It introduces the history behind the notorious demon-child Damien from the 1976 horror classic “The Omen.” Although it identifies as a prequel, it does an astounding job at standing on its own meant to satisfy old-time fans and (quite literally) birth new ones.

The foreboding opening scene shows excommunicated priest Father Brennan (Ralph Ineson) unfolding the conspiracy concerning the plans of the Catholic Church to birth the Antichrist. We then follow the protagonist and novitiate Margaret (Nell Tiger Free) as she is sent to a monastery in Rome to fulfill her service as a nun.

She shows to have devoted her life to God with her seemingly unwavering faith until she slowly unravels the secrets of the convent she’s entered. She is trusted with caring for the orphans residing there, finding herself drawn to Carlita (Nicole Sorace), a recluse and troublesome child. This budding companionship follows a series of unfortunate events as they learn that their similarities are much more than what meets the eye.


“The First Omen” provides a fresh perspective to “The Omen” franchise by building the foundation of ominous beginnings that predate the iconic series.


With every character you meet, it feels as if there is a hidden disturbance underneath their kind demeanor. None of the characters feel one-dimensional or disposable; each and every one is so intricately placed. This aspect is recognizable in Margaret’s fellow novitiate Luz (Maria Caballero) who, at face value, seems like a trustworthy friend with her carefree and adventurous spirit that complements Margaret’s mindful nature. We soon realize that Luz serves as her devil’s advocate to stimulate a malicious chain of events.

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(Social) horrors off the press

The story sheds light on the sinister state of affairs that devout Catholics hide behind their dominant influence and power. These schemes to bring about the evil incarnate reveal something more menacing than playing God. It is an attempt to show the public that the devil is real and his evil roams free.

It may be lightly identified as a commentary on the dangers of fundamentalism and the blind devotion of its believers. Set in 1970s Rome—the age of disco, alcohol, and casual sex—the ritual is intended to save the youth from what they think is steering them away from holy values. Any tinge of doubt against the holy scriptures is seen as an abominable show of rebellion. In hopes of pushing the new generation into the embrace of the church, they unleash the existence of the Antichrist. While already treading contentious themes of religion, it does not forget to briefly touch on the sexual abuse and psychological control that occur inside those walls.

Nell Tiger Free
Nell Tiger Free as Margaret in “The First Omen” | Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios

Class acts

The performances of the actors are nothing short of stellar. The surprising turns of gorey body visuals together with guttural screams of terror couldn’t shake the feeling of fear out of the watcher.

What is truly commendable about this film, however, is the unnerving use of sound and pacing. For a movie with a good amount of jumpscares, it doesn’t rely on that for its fear factor. There are moments of stillness that keep your eyes glued to the screen, as much as you’d like to look away.

From the moment the haunting choir greets the audience, the atmosphere is immediately set with restless unease for what’s about to come. The devotees strive to deliver the message that there is someone always watching—this feeling is almost forcefully induced through the perceptive use of volume throughout the film. Its brilliant maneuver of sound fills the air with a hovering presence of danger. “From the beginning, we have always viewed this film as a descent from heaven to hell,” says executive producer Tim Smith. Instead of curating a sheltered environment inside a divine cathedral that preaches all things good, the story is slowly injected with a venom of dread.

There might have been a few loose ends with the implications it presents that can be considered inconsistent with the original, but the quality of which it’s made surpasses its predecessor.

“The First Omen” provides a fresh perspective to “The Omen” franchise by building the foundation of ominous beginnings that predate the iconic series.

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