Before I get started, I think it’s important to get a couple things out of the way. I don’t really care for Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. I can appreciate it for what it did for the genre, but I never found it particularly scary or interesting. I love the atmosphere, but, in the end, it was really just a movie about a young couple trying to make it in the big city. I guess that’s where the horror comes from – that this kind of thing could happen to anyone – but it never particularly grabbed me. I didn’t see it until later in my life, and I often wonder if I would feel differently about it had I seen it when I was younger. As it stands, it looks good and has some great performances, but I’m not a big fan of it. (You could pretty much copy-and-paste this for my thoughts on The Exorcist, but that’s neither here nor there.)
I think it’s also important to note my feelings on horror remakes, as I know that’s a touchy topic among horror fans, especially with a movie as loved and respected as Rosemary’s Baby. Personally, the idea of remakes don’t bother me. I’m perfectly okay with remaking a movie if there’s a good concept and vision behind it. Take the original and make it your own. Are there bad remakes, seemingly made only for cash grabs? Absolutely. But there have also been a number of remakes that were made with the right spirit, and some great movies have come out of it. We can’t treat every classic movie like a sacred text. Regardless of how I feel about the original, I try to go into every remake with an open mind, and that attitude has served me well in this new age of gods and monsters. I love the original Evil Dead, and it would have been easy to completely write-off the remake before walking into the theater, but then I would have missed out on all of the bloody fun the remake provided. A good movie is a good movie, regardless of how I feel about the source material.
With all of that in mind, let’s talk about NBC’s Rosemary’s Baby miniseries.
I love that the miniseries takes place in Paris, and that it has been made clear that Rosemary has given up her role of chief breadwinner in the house so that her husband can fulfill his dream of being a writer (while working as an English professor at a prestigious university). On top of being a stranger in a strange place, it also puts Rosemary in an unfamiliar role in her own house. At first, it’s hard for her to tell whether her paranoia is real or just a result of having too much time on her hands. So far, this has been the best part of the miniseries. Zoe Saldana plays paranoia and creeping dread perfectly, and it’s all completely believable. She’s out of her element in more ways than one, and she can’t even fully trust herself. What if it’s all in her mind? But what if it isn’t? After all, paranoia is only paranoia if there’s no one after you.
Everything is bigger in this version. More blood. More violence. You want to see a pregnant woman do a belly-first swan dive off a balcony? You got it. You want to see a man wake up in the middle of an abdominal operation and die because a witch said unholy prayers to an upside-down cross? You got that, too. Bloody flies and dead priests? Check and check.
There’s no subtlety here. No subtext. Everything is out in the open. Though Saldana can convey emotions with nothing but the panic on her face, everything is vocalized. Every meaningful item is pointed out. Rosemary is given a necklace, and we get roughly a dozen shots zooming in on the necklace afterwards (as well as some focused shots before she gets the necklace, so we’re all 100% sure we know where it came from). An evil gentleman with an evil cane lurks in the background, only to have the camera focus on him. Nothing is fleeting. If it’s somewhat important, it is impossible to miss. Someone even uttered the line, “That building is cursed.” This is cursed. That’s cursed. They make sure to tell us.
In this miniseries, Guy (Rosemary’s husband) isn’t an aspiring actor: he’s an aspiring author, currently suffering from some terrible writer’s block. He and Rosemary are on the same page with regards to their wealthy new neighbors, the Castavets (a middle-aged swinging couple instead of the elderly couple in the original): “they’re kind of pretentious and weird, we take nothing from them, we live on our own, blah blah blah.” Within minutes he has completely gone back on that. He is now Roman Castavet’s BFF, and it was made extremely clear that a Faustian bargain had been struck, whether Guy was conscious of it or not.
This is where some of my major complaints come in. The original film was 136 minutes. This miniseries will be roughly 168 minutes. They have a little more time to let characters evolve naturally, and yet that aspect of it still feels rushed. They do nothing with the extra time they have been afforded. There’s a lot of filler. Why not use the extra time and make it work for you? Instead of trying to tell a full, coherent story, it just feels like they’re killing time for a couple big scenes.
However, there were a handful of great moments to go along with the confusing ones. There was a great jump scare involving a mute handyman. I loved the interview scene (made me feel a little better about my own interview skills).
Of course, there was also a strange orgy with Steven Marcato (Devil Cane Anagram Man) that made Rosemary want to have a baby right here this very second in the filthy hallway why are we still wearing clothes when there are babies to be made.
It’s kind of a strange miniseries that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Does it want the slow burn of the original, or does it want a more gory modern take? It’s a question they clearly didn’t answer before filming this.
Part 1 was not terrible, but it also wasn’t very good. I’m looking forward to watching Part 2 tonight, if only to watch Zoe Saldana eat a human heart.