The First Omen review: "This female-centered Omen prequel is devilishly good"

Nell Tiger Free in The First Omen
(Image: © 20th Century Studios)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

This classy, female-centred Omen prequel is devilishly good at keeping its nun on the run.

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It’s a nun-derful life at the cinema these days. You wait years for a sister-and-Satan movie, and suddenly The Nun 2 and Immaculate materialize. But this smartly chilling '70s-styled screamfest, a reboot of the Omen franchise, is definitely a cut above. 

A classy, atmospheric prequel shot with understated, desaturated, Polanski-style good looks, The First Omen propels naive novitiate Margaret (Nell Tiger Free) into a creepy Catholic orphanage in 1971 Rome, where she’s eager to take holy orders. First-time director Arkasha Stevenson (feted for the Butcher’s Block run of TV horror anthology Channel Zero) crafts a tense, chilling mood, as tenderhearted Margaret bonds with disturbed orphan Carlita (Nicole Sorace) over their similarly abusive childhoods. 

Bringing back the grounded, psychological horror of the original 1976 film gives nervy Margaret’s sudden visions of devil claws and mysterious bestial rites a useful ambiguity – is she relapsing into mental instability, as Sonia Braga’s shrewd abbess insists? But when disgraced Father Brennan (a dogged Ralph Ineson) reveals a Catholic sect’s plan to breed the Antichrist from an orphan, the film unleashes a set of rope-swinging, pole-flying callbacks to The Omen that ramp up the film from arty restraint to burgeoning body horror. 

Stevenson makes something female-driven and pleasingly original from the film’s horror heritage, as the brave but terrified Margaret digs into orphanage files (and its terrifying crypt) in an attempt to save Carlita. Like Immaculate, there’s a strong message about post-Roe-vs-Wade female bodily autonomy here, especially in the gory, feisty finale. A fabulously intense, no-holds-barred performance from Free keeps things swinging along in high style.

The First Omen is in US theaters and UK cinemas on April 5. 

For more, check out our list of all of the upcoming horror movies in 2024 and beyond.

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Freelance Writer

Kate is a freelance film journalist and critic. Her bylines have appeared online and in print for GamesRadar, Total Film, the BFI, Sight & Sounds, and