The First Omen Ending Explained: How the Movie Changes the Original

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This article contains major The First Omen spoilers.

It is said the Devil is in the details, and the details are quite devilish, indeed, in The First Omen. The surprisingly stylish and adroit chiller from first-time feature director Arkasha Stevenson takes the well-worn Hollywood formula of making a “story before the story” prequel, and actually conjures something drenched in atmosphere, originality, and modern urgency. Most of the time.

While the movie has a despairing timeliness in 2024 with its parable about a patriarchal system attempting to control and use women’s bodies to achieve their own power-hungry ends, The First Omen is still also a prequel to a film that was released almost 50 years ago. As such, it is forced to conclude where The Omen begins. And in the case of a franchise as steeped in opaque mysticism and religious dread as this, that kind of ending might baffle newcomers to the series. It also doesn’t entirely avoid making some major alterations to the canonical text of Richard Donner’s original 1976 classic. So let’s follow where those damned details lead in The First Omen and beyond.

His Name Is Damien

The actual mechanics of the climax are pretty straight forward while never being less than nightmarish. Upon learning that she too is a child who was bred between a supposed follower of Christ and a jackal, the novitiate nun Sister Margaret (Nell Tiger Free) also realizes she is pregnant with what the church followers hope is the Antichrist. Raised since birth by the Roman Catholic Church and an especially grandfatherly Cardinal Lawrence (Bill Nighy), Margaret is not only a spawn of Satan (or at least one of his familiars in the form of a humanoid jackal), but she’s also intended to be offered to the same jackal-beast, which will impregnate her with what this secret sect hopes is a male heir. The Antichrist.

Yet, to everyone’s surprise, it is two children who are born; a boy and a girl. The sinister religious sect within the Church hopes to put the boy out in the world where he’ll usher in an era of darkness—which supposedly will cause the increasingly secular 20th century to find Jesus again and return to the Church—so he is their priority. Thus when Margaret attempts to kill the hellspawn (and only after exacting her revenge on Cardinal Lawrence with a scalpel to the throat), all consideration is put into saving the child.

Margaret is stabbed in the abdomen by her duplicitous friend, Sister Luz (Maria Caballero), and the boy is saved—to be gifted to the American diplomat Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck in the original ’76 movie) who will soon be in his own moment of crisis. Meanwhile Margaret’s bleeding body, her unnamed daughter, and even the cursed jackal are consigned to the flames by a Church which wants to hide its sins. However, for better or maybe worse, Margaret and her daughter are saved by another daughter of the devil, half-sister Carlita (Nicole Sorace). A few years later, we find Margaret, Carlita, and their other half-sister/daughter living in seclusion. But a familiar face in Father Brennan (Ralph Ineson) comes to warn them that the evil cult within the Church knows they’re out there… and that Margaret’s son lives. They now call him Damien.

A Jackal That Changes Shape

The above sums up the basic plot points of the ending, but we imagine it is still jarring for those who haven’t seen the 1976 movie. It also might be confusing for those who have. Because in that original unholy spectacle, Robert Thorn’s situation gets an entire movie for audiences to understand the horror therein, instead of a few spare words over a rapid montage at the end of The First Omen. But yes, Gregory Peck’s character was in fact an American diplomat in Italy in the first film when his wife (Lee Remick) goes into labor. The priests at the local hospital tell Robert that their son tragically died in childbirth. So in order to spare his wife that pain, he is convinced to adopt a child born in the same hour who lost his own mother. Damien.

As the film’s nastiness unfolds, Robert eventually is forced to travel back to Italy where he digs up the supposed grave of Damien’s mother. There he finds the remains of his biological son, who died from having his head crushed in (presumably by the priests)…  and the skeleton of a jackal. There is no confusion. Damien was born of a female jackal who mated with Satan.

So for The First Omen’s twist to occur—where it’s revealed Margaret is made the unwilling mother of the Antichrist—the lore needed to be changed. And in the process, it became a lot more disturbing. While bestiality is still at play, the film also throws in incest and rape with a sequence taken straight out of Rosemary’s Baby (1968) where Margaret realizes she was drugged and offered up to a demonic beast, in this case a jackal who we only see in flashes until the end of the movie where, while bathed in fire, looks half-human himself.

When The First Omen director Stevenson spoke with Den of Geek, she addressed that change and the desire to make the birth of Damien even more heinous.

“It was important for us to keep the character and to keep this kind of demonic bestial presence,” Stevenson said. “And what was frightening to me was thinking of the jackal as this male figure. How do you do that and talk about this woman’s body being violated by this while also keeping the mythology? And something we were thinking about is that if you’re going to bring the Antichrist on Earth, it would have to be in the most awful and horrible of circumstances. And so that’s where this idea of incest came in: the Antichrist would be born of some horrid demonic incest.”

A More Sinister Church and Conspiracies within Conspiracies

The change of the jackal from the mother to the father (and, shudders,  grandfather) of Damien was one shift in the lore, but perhaps the more striking one is how the cult which brought the Antichrist into the world is depicted. In the original Omen, it is implied Satanists had infiltrated Western culture at every level, from the entire hiring pool for little Damien’s nannies to the Catholic Church. The First Omen, in contrast, posits that the Church is complicit in the Antichrist’s rise. Or at least elements of it are.

As Father Brennan (Ralph Ineson, stepping into a role Patrick Troughton originated in 1976) explains to Margaret, there are two parts of the Church. A good part, and a part which is so terrified of rising secularism and a loss of religion in the 20th century that they think the best way to bring God back into the mainstream is to have the Antichrist scare the hell out of the world. One might wonder if they also just hope to hasten the end times and Jesus Christ’s anticipated return, as alleged in the Book of Revelations.

In any event, this reshapes our understanding of the original film where it is implied Father Spiletto (Martin Benson in ’76, Anton Alexander in ’24) is a Satanist who is aware of the ruse to place the Antichrist son of a jackal into the household of a powerful American politician. Now Father Spiletto is revealed to be part of a genuine Catholic conspiracy determined on bringing the Antichrist into our world in The First Omen all for the glory and power of the Church. Which gives his mournful regrets when Robert Thorn finds him years later in The Omen—after a fire has maimed and disfigured his person—new dimension.

The emphasis on the Church’s complicity is striking, too, because it includes an element many viewers might not have picked up on: Sister Silva (Sonia Braga), the older nun who reveals long gray hair at the end, is actually Margaret’s mother. She is the woman who we are told in a flashback volunteered to be ravaged by a jackal-headed demon, and who at the end still has no compunction about having her daughter (and granddaughter for that matter) burned alive in the bowels of a church.

“This was something that we were okay with if people [didn’t get],” Stevenson told us, “but it would be wonderful if they did: Sister Silva is her mother. So Sister Silva’s role in the whole conspiracy is that she’s the one who volunteered to do all of this. It was something that was in our heads.”

A Larger Omen Universe

Assuming all of the original three Omen movies are canon, we know how Damien’s story ends. He is able to thwart and slaughter all do-gooders who attempt to prevent his rise to absolute power, but at the eleventh hour Christ Himself returns to Earth and puts the kibosh on the whole thing. But that’s Damien’s story.

The end of The First Omen, meanwhile, reveals there is another. Not only did Margaret and Carlita survive the story, but so did Damien’s twin sister who is still the incestuous offspring of “the jackal” and its daughter. Margaret will presumably raise this child with less depravity than some of the Satanists around Damien, but the Thorns tried to be good parents to wee little Damien and look where that got them. Could there be stories about a whole other demonic child?

Possibly. Yet Stevenson raises some other interesting possibilities while thinking about the jackal and the aforementioned Sister Silva.

Said the director, “There’s new questions that pop up. Like I’m really interested in where and when and how the jackal was captured, and the story behind that. Also I think Sister Silva is just such a fascinating person in the sense of why would a woman volunteer to sign up for all of this? What was your role in the conspiracy? I think exploring that could be a really fun film. Yeah, there’s a lot in the Omen universe, I think.”

There are plenty of more details, and the devils therein, left to be examined.

The First Omen is in theaters now.

The post The First Omen Ending Explained: How the Movie Changes the Original appeared first on Den of Geek.

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