The Omen franchise recap: What you need to know before watching The First Omen

The Omen - Courtesy Hulu
The Omen - Courtesy Hulu /

One of the classic horror franchises is about to get a new entry, which means it's time to get a refresher on all things Omen. The new movie, The First Omen, is set to debut in theaters on April 5, 2024.

The synopsis for the new film reads:

"When a young American woman is sent to Rome to begin a life of service to the church, she encounters a darkness that causes her to question her own faith and uncovers a terrifying conspiracy that hopes to bring about the birth of evil incarnate"

The creators of The First Omen have remained incredibly tight-lipped about what the film will explore, excluding a few details. One major facet of the film is that, rather than focusing on Damien himself, The First Omen will come from a female perspective, both in following Nell Tiger Free's Margaret and in exploring the unique horrors of pregnancy and labor.

Although most people only ever watched the first film (or its 2006 remake), there is actually a lot of lore within the religious horror franchise. After the 1976 film came Damien: Omen II in 1978 and Omen III: The Final Conflict in 1981. These are relatively well-known by fans, and all three were referenced by The First Omen's co-writer and director, Arkasha Stevenson, in a recent interview.

However, there are also a few lesser-known entries in the canon. 1991 saw the addition of the made-for-TV sequel, Omen IV: The Awakening. While there was a failed attempt at a television series in 1995, A&E succeeded in making a full season of their 2016 series, Damien. Finally, there are two novelizations that follow the original trilogy.

According to Jamie Jirak in an early review, "You don’t have to see the OG to get it, but I do wish I had revisited it first because there are some deep connections." Producer Keith Levine told Screen Rant that their goal was to make it enjoyable for newcomers, but with elements that speak to longtime fans of the franchise. With this in mind, you might want a refresher on the plots, characters, and motifs that are so intrinsic to the franchise.

Here is everything you need to know about the four movies and the Damien television series before you see The First Omen. We provide a brief plot synopsis for each film, along with iconic moments and characters that may be referenced in the prequel.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead! This article will detail the plot of all previous entries in The Omen franchise.

The Omen

The first Omen movie begins with a scene that is most likely to be duplicated or led into in the prequel. Robert and Kathy Thorn are living in Rome, and Kathy gives birth. However, the child dies (supposedly of natural causes), so the priest convinces Robert to adopt an orphan without telling his wife that their child died.

The film then jumps forward five years, where the primary theme is: something is wrong with young Damien Thorn. A Rottweiler starts protecting Damien, but other animals revolt in his presence. He refuses to go into a church. Whether he is aware of it or not, darkness seems to follow the young boy.

Death follows him as well. His nanny hangs herself during Damien's birthday party, telling him she loves him and announcing the famous line, "It's all for you!" A Catholic priest, Father Brennan, is killed after telling Robert that Damien is the Antichrist. Damien causes Kathy to have a miscarriage, before she, too, is killed by the mysterious new nanny.

Robert doesn't want to believe that Damien could be causing these tragedies, but he gradually begins digging into the background of the hospital where they got Damien. The hospital, including its records and staff, burned down, but one of the priests (Father Spiletto) is still alive, and directs Robert to a cemetery where he finds his murdered biological son's body, as well as Damien's mother (Maria Sciatta): a jackal.

He is told to kill Damien with seven ritualistic daggers, and while he resists the idea at first, he eventually decides he must. The blades have to be used in a distinctive order and positioning, with the first dagger able to kill the physical body and the other six able to destroy the spirit of the Antichrist altogether. Just before Robert can kill Damien, the police burst in and shoot him.

The movie ends with Damien at his parents' funeral, where he is being cared for by the President of the United States.

The 2006 remake

By and large, the 2006 remake of The Omen is exactly the same as the original. It has all the same characters and virtually all of the same plot lines, though several death scenes play out differently. Many scenes are even reproduced on a shot-by-shot level.

The biggest change comes in the form of trippy dream sequences, which are probably worth mentioning. Katherine starts having strange dreams about Damien, including one with a jackal skeleton in red and another where Damien is shown as a monster in a mask. Neither contributes much to the movie, but they are relatively interesting images.

Major changes to note:

  • Someone else was supposed to be the UK ambassador, who gets killed so the Thorn family goes to England instead.
  • Kathy Thorn has a completely different death scene. Instead of being thrown out a window, Mrs. Baylock injects air into her bloodstream to kill her in a less obviously homicidal way. This death scene is probably the best scene in the remake, and might be referenced in the prequel.
  • The Vatican is a much bigger player, documenting the signs of the coming apocalypse in the beginning. At the end, the Pope dies on the same day as Robert's funeral, signaling deeper trouble in the religious landscape.

If you intend to do a rewatch of the franchise before watching the prequel, I'd recommend just watching the original. While there are some fantastic actors in the remake, it's not worth watching in addition to the original, and most people agree that the original was better. The original has an 84% critical score and 81% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The remake scores 26% and 40%, respectively.

Iconic elements to know

  • The nanny killing herself, and the lines "Damien, I love you" and "It's all for you!"
  • Photographs indicating how each person will die
  • A birthmark of three 6s
  • The theme music: "Ave Satani"
  • Seven ritualistic daggers (The Daggers of Megiddo)

Characters that could be in the prequel

  • Father Brennan (confirmed)
  • Father Spiletto
  • Robert and Katherine Thorn
  • Mrs. Baylock
  • Bugenhagen

Damien: Omen II

Although the first movie implied that Damien was adopted by the US President, Damien: Omen II picks up with a twelve-year-old Damien being raised by his uncle and aunt, Richard and Ann Thorn. He is close to his cousin, Mark, and the boys' friendship is pivotal to how Damien approaches his destiny.

A key piece of evidence in the film, introduced in the opening scene and referenced throughout, is Yigael's Wall, a series of paintings of the Antichrist. One of the images clearly shows the pre-teen Damien, as portrayed by Jonathan Scott-Taylor.

Mark and Damien both attend Davison Military Academy, where Damien is seen using his abilities to defend his cousin from bullies. However, he doesn't truly seem to understand how they work or why he has them. Those who know or sense the truth about Damien continue to be killed off in unusual ways, as a supernatural force manipulates the world to get him into a position of power.

Meanwhile, various figures pop up in Damien's life to help guide his future. Sergeant Daniel Neff, an instructor at Damien's school, and Paul Buher, the manager of Thorn Industries, are both revealed to be Satanists who are creating the circumstances Damien will need to end the world.

In this film, Damien is finally told who and what he is. At first, Damien seems horrified by the idea. However, he quickly comes to terms with it, looking for ways to prepare before he must end the world.

The most compelling scene comes when Mark overhears a conversation about Damien's heritage and confronts him. Damien admits to being the Antichrist but begs his cousin and friend to side with him. When Mark refuses, Damien kills him.

Richard decides that he needs to kill Damien, using the daggers from the first movie, but instead is killed himself by his wife, who reveals that she is a Satanist. However, Damien kills her to erase all evidence (and, hopefully, the only weapons that can kill him). This marks his acceptance of his destiny and sets the stage for the final act of the trilogy.

Iconic elements to know

  • Yigael's Wall, which shows Damien throughout his life as the definitive Antichrist
  • Damien is immune to toxic fumes and has an encyclopedic knowledge of historical dates
  • The line "I've always belonged to him."

Characters that could be in the prequel

  • Ann Thorn
  • Sergeant Daniel Neff
  • Paul Buher

Omen III: The Final Conflict

The final installment of Damien's cinematic story, Omen III: The Final Conflict sees an adult Damien, just on the cusp of ending the world. Now played by Sam Neill, Damien has been the head of Thorn Industries for years and, through some infernal intervention, becomes the US Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

A priest named Father DeCarlo decides that it is time to defeat Damien, as the Second Coming of Christ is on the horizon. He gets a group of other priests to join him in his assassination mission, but they all end up being killed. Damien orders the death of all infants born on March 24, as one is assumed to be Christ reborn.

Meanwhile, Damien is playing the part of the charming politician. In addition to gaining political power, he is intent on wooing reporter Kate Reynolds and gaining the trust of her son. DeCarlo gets to her and informs her of who Damien is, but she does sleep with Damien before accepting the truth.

She is used as a go-between for Damien and the Church, setting up the film's climax. After luring Damien to 'sacred ground,' Kate tries to help DeCarlo, only to have Damien kill her son instead. As he is consumed by rage and seeking a fight with Christ, Damien gets stabbed by Kate and dies.

Iconic elements to know

  • The rise of the Antichrist will prompt the rebirth of Christ
  • Damien's Satanic organization is called the Disciples of the Watch
  • Damien's Commandment: "I love you. Beyond all others. Beyond life itself."

Omen IV: The Awakening

The final episode in The Omen's film canon is the first to focus on the apocalypse without Damien Thorn at the heart of it. For the most part, the first half of Omen IV: The Awakening is a 1990s remake of the original, just with different names. From there, it gets increasingly bizarre.

Gene and Karen York adopt an orphaned girl named Delia, but dark things begin to happen around her. People die, animals act strangely, and it seems like Delia is going to be the Antichrist, reborn. Delia's nanny discovers dark energy around the girl, but she ends up being forced out a window before she can reveal the truth: that Delia is Damien's daughter.

Karen witnesses the nanny's death, which causes her to faint and be taken to the hospital. There, it's revealed that she is pregnant. But rather than seeming hostile to the fetus, as Damien was, Delia becomes incredibly protective.

Karen eventually gives birth to a son named Alexander, but it turns out that he is actually also Damien's biological child, whose embryo was inside of Delia before being implanted in Karen. Karen is able to kill some of the Satanists, but eventually the power of the Antichrist leads her to commit suicide, leaving Delia and Alexander to fulfill Damien's original purpose.

Iconic elements to know

  • Crystals turn black in Delia's presence

Damien (2016)

The latest entry in the franchise is the A&E series Damien, which only took the first film as canon. It jumps forward to when Damien is 30 years old—the same age as Christ when he began his ministry. This version of Damien overall seems to be a good person, though he has lived his life surrounded by death and disaster as a war photographer.

Damien learns in the first episode that he is the Antichrist, but he resists the idea that he is inherently evil. Priests plan to assassinate him, while a detective tries to prove that he is the cause of all the deaths that happen around him. However, a woman named Ann Rutledge arrives to protect him and guide him to his destiny.

Ann and one of Damien's former guardians, John Lyons, try to steer Damien into darkness (on their terms, of course). Meanwhile, Damien's friends Amani and Simone try to find out what is wrong with Damien and whether they can change it. Damien himself is burdened by the idea that he is meant to destroy the world, which leads him to attempt suicide.

Eventually, all of the players come together. Damien turns on Lyons, who has hurt his friends to try to control him. When Simone is killed, Damien embraces his role to gain the power to resurrect her. Finally accepting himself as the Antichrist and willing to use his full power, Damien seems unstoppable. Everyone, including his enemies, kneel before him.

Iconic elements to know

  • Armitage Global (company run by Satanists)
  • Scisco Dei (A branch of the Vatican intent on stopping the Antichrist)
  • "Hic est filius meus dilectus" AKA "Here's my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased"

Characters that could be in the prequel

  • Ann Rutledge
  • John Lyons
  • Professor Reneus (a grad student who was working with Bugenhagen)

Damien himself may not be particularly relevant to the prequel, but the darkness that follows him and the Satanic organizations meant to help him come to power likely will appear, even if they take slightly different forms. This franchise recap should give you all you'll need to get the most out of The First Omen.

The First Omen will be out in theaters on April 5, 2024.

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