The First Omen stars explain how the horror prequel puts a modern spin on the 'period movie'

The First Omen
(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

The First Omen may be set in 1971 but director Arkasha Stevenson was hellbent on the horror movie not having "period attitudes", say its stars Bill Nighy and Nell Tiger Free.

A prequel to Richard Donner's chilling 1976 classic The Omen, the franchise's latest installment follows Margaret (Free), a twentysomething novice who moves from the US to Italy to take a job as a teacher at a convent school. Once there, she finds herself at the center of a terrifying Satanic plot to bring about the Antichrist.

"As much as it does honor the original, obviously, and it's faithful to the events in the first three movies, it is a modern script and it's brand new and the writers were very cool," Nighy gushes to GamesRadar+ ahead of The First Omen's release. "Arkasha Stevenson was also very keen not to have it be some kind of antique or some kind of period movie. I mean, it is a period movie," he laughs, "but not in a sense of its attitudes. So, it has been brought, very successfully and kind of authentically, into the modern world."

Bill Nighy in The First Omen

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Starring Lee Remick and Gregory Peck, The Omen sees Robert Thorn agree to adopt an orphaned baby on the same day he and his wife, Kathy, lose their own newborn son. Having been convinced by the hospital chaplain that Kathy need never know of the swap, Robert raises the youngster, who they call Damien, as his own, but as the boy grows older, the couple's life becomes a series of strange, macabre things. 

When Damien's nanny mysteriously takes her own life, declaring the act a gesture of love towards the kid, Robert starts to believe the ramblings of a priest named Father Brennan, who is convinced Damien is evil incarnate – prompting him to embark on a dark investigation into the child's true identity. 

The First Omen, in short, elaborates on all he uncovers, exploring themes like sexual violence, misogynism, and institutional abuse.

Nell Tiger Free as Margaret in The First Omen

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

"The original is pretty dialogue heavy and this is more stylistic, but not in a way that makes you roll your eyes," Free chuckles. "Do you know what I mean? Like, it's beautiful because it could be, you know? Arkasha, the way that she saw it, it was just like, 'It could be beautiful – with all that iconography, it had the propensity to be – and yeah, it's lovely. But obviously, it's quite creepy, too." Quite creepy is an understatement...

The First Omen releases on April 5. For more, check out our list of the best horror movies of all time, or our guide to the most exciting upcoming horror movies heading our way. 

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.