Time: 104 mins.
SYNOPSIS: An American diplomat who switched out his supposedly dead son for a healthy one slowly begins to realize that his young "son" may not be all that he seems. It's not until his wife is almost fatally injured by the boy that he begins to believe Damien may be the spawn of the devil and takes it upon himself to stop him from taking over the world.
BOTTOM LINE: Because I prefer to sleep without nightmares, I'm not much of a horror fan anymore. I'm not really sure what drew me to watch this movie, but I have to say that the production design and direction kept me watching from start to finish. It's certainly not the scariest or most well-written horror flick out there, but there's just something about your baby being the reincarnation of Satan that's enough to give most women the heebie-jeebies.
Stiles and Schreiber give what could have been a true B-movie some weight and class as the happy young couple with trouble in the nursery. Stiles, in particular, makes you feel her growing fear and helplessness as a young mother trying to connect with her child, when she knows deep in her soul he's not really hers. Despite the genre, this is one of Stiles first really adult roles and she gives the film its heart, making you truly care for her survival, especially since it's clear from the beginning her "son" is out to get her.
Being an intelligent man, despite what he did to procure a baby for his young wife, it takes quite a bit of convincing from both a seemingly crazy priest (played by Postlethwaite) and an obsessed photographer (in a nice turn by Thewlis) to finally turn Schreiber's character against his son. The final third of the film has Schreiber and Thewlis desperately attempting to discover a way to dispatch the boy for good before it's too late. This is where the film cranks up the thrills and gore, making you squirm in your seat as everyone around Damien finds themselves fighting for their lives...with most of them coming out painfully on the losing end.
This film had a huge potential to be a silly remake, but the first-rate cast, cinematography and art direction, along with some truly chilling and gross murders, raise the bar slightly above average. Farrow's turn as Satan's nanny is a cheeky homage to her iconic role as the devil's unwitting mother in ROSEMARY'S BABY and she's clearly having fun here. The film's weakest link is the young actor who played Damien. He seemed more bored than creepy, with his haircut being the scariest thing about him. He's good enough, but better casting might have really made this film one to seek out. As it stands, it's a solid horror movie with enough suspense and gore to satisfy lovers of the genre.