While the Rosemary’s Baby TV miniseries says a lot of interesting things about the Horror genre, and it’s increasing prevalence in our culture, and about human psychology and relationships, it didn’t need to exist.
Most followers of the Horror tradition need little introduction to Rosemary’s Baby, being familiar with the infamous Roman Polanski version from 1969. Mia Farrow‘s haunted, waifish performance is one of the most haunting in the history of horror cinema. I was curious and, I have to admit, rather excited when I saw they were making a 4 hour TV series, to air on NBC. Surely, they wouldn’t screw up one of the most famous horror movies of all time? And with today’s production values, it was sure to visually impress and rush along, rather than ominously crawl. I was curious to what they were going to do with it. I was curious why it existed at all.
2014’s version moves the action to Paris, rather than New York, which turned out to be one of the only redeeming qualities of this spectacle. Visually, it IS stunning, and I watch horror movies for the sets and the music, as much as anything else. Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse, played by Patrick J. Adams and Zoe Saldana, move to Paris for Guy to take a position teaching English, while he struggles to overcome a terminal case of writer’s block. Rosemary’s been supporting him, which is one of the first major differences of the series, being a much more empowered and contemporary arrangement.
The fact that Rosemary is strong and independent makes what it is to come that much more frustrating, and unbelievable.
Rosemary has her purse snatched, and goes headlong in pursuit after the thief. She recovers her purse, and in it, the wallet of an uptown socialite with an exclusive address. Rosemary decides to return the wallet in person, and makes the acquaintance of the glamorous Margaux Castevet, played by Carole Bouquet, who insists on she and Guy coming to their dinner party that evening, kicking off a bloody series of events.
The fabulous Castevets, Margaux and her dashing husband Roman, played by Jason Isaacs, take an interest in the young couple, and end up moving them into their fancy uptown address, after their university lodging inexplicably bursts into flames.
That’s the thing, with Rosemary’s Baby, each windfall is marked by some hideous tragedy. Like when Guy becomes head of the English department after a shocking murder/suicide, from an elderly old woman. While no one wants to suspect that Satanists are conspiring against them, when it seems like absolutely everybody you know is dying in some hideous freak tragedy, an ill wind blows. Might be time to move on, go home. Certainly not the right time to start planning your new family.
But all is seemingly well for Guy and Rosemary, with their elaborate new wardrobe, gift of the Castevets’, and Guy breaking his writer’s block, and rocking the literary world with his new novel. They decide to start their family, anyway. Rosemary had suffered a miscarriage with her previous pregnancy, and seems deeply disturbed by this, which lays the groundwork for all that is to come. She had failed as a woman, failed to protect her child and bring it to life, and she will do ANYTHING for her baby, to be a mother. Including ignoring her own gut instincts, and absolutely everybody around her.
To soon, the strong, fierce, independent Rosemary that chases down purse snatchers is gone; as Rosemary is condescended, ignored and controlled by everybody around her, most notably Guy and her busybody neighbor Marguax. That’s the other thing about Rosemary’s Baby, and probably both versions, but I’ve got to go back and revisit the old one to make sure, but each character seems to exemplify the very worst of their type. Quickly after Rosemary becomes pregnant, Guy becomes cold and distant, too preoccupied with work to even notice Rosemary getting the trademark Pixie cut. Marguax is the epitome of an aging busybody, who means well but is absolutely infuriating. It is incredibly difficult to tell off anyone who is acting kind but forceful, but after a while, you just want to scream at the TV, “Stop touching her! Stop telling her what to do!”
And then there is Rosemary, the paragon of the hysterical Mother-to-be.
I mean, you can’t blame her for being off her tether. The human psyche is incredibly frail, and even finding out that there was a hidden passageway into your apartment would be enough to unnerve most of us, let alone the tragic deaths of practically everyone around you. It’s easy to judge those on the screen, but we must remember that even the least of these events would be life-shattering and traumatic, let alone all of them, unfurling in a row. But still, we wish that she could hold her stuff together enough to plot and consider at least enough to get some help, to get out of the perilous situation. ESPECIALLY if it meant her baby’s life, as well as her own. To burst into a doctor’s office and tell him that Satanists are trying to steal your baby is going to get you locked up in the looney bin, guaranteed. But you can’t still help but loathe the doctor, when he immediately calls the husband, after placating the distraught woman. I mean, aren’t there even LAWS about that? If someone comes to you, especially as a doctor, and tells you that their husband means them and the baby harm, are you really just going to CALL THE HUSBAND? And when two beefy looking men in dark coats who look like they could be gangsters come to usher the pregnant woman out while she protests? Wouldn’t you DO SOMETHING? Call somebody? You begin to suspect that absolutely everybody in the series is a Satanist.
Almost everybody in this series is the absolute worst.
And that’s why it didn’t work for me, although I suspect that the same may be true, of the original. After about the first 5 minutes, I didn’t like absolutely anybody in the entire series. And when I can’t like or relate to anybody in something, it makes it really hard for me to enjoy it. I do understand that there are those who like to watch something just to loathe the people in it, but I am not one of those people. I tend to avoid spending my time with people that I hate.
I didn’t mind the length, and actually rather enjoyed the drawn-out format. I enjoyed the excess scenery, and the Paris setting really is spectacular, particularly the imposing La Chimere apartments. I would probably deal with Satanists to live there, too.There’s plenty of gargoyles and shots of the Eiffel Tower, cafes and backlit stained glass. Although i despised Guy as a character, i chose to interpret he and Rosemary’s relocating to Paris and succeeding as a writer as an omen of good portent, as a struggling scribe myself.
There’s some decent performances, as well, particularly Zoe Saldana. She had some enormous flats to fill with this one, and she pulled it off, living up to the reputation while still making it her own. She had that ethereal, haunted grace of Mia Farrow. I do think her part was rather unbalanced, giving too little in the first segment and going off the deep end in the 2nd.
Patrick J. Adams, as Guy, is about as deep as a John Wayne cut-out, however. The pair must have had one hell of a courtship, because I don’t think Guy exhibits one redeeming quality the entire film. The only redeeming thing that can be said about him is that he reminds me to be nicer to my girlfriend, to try and listen and pay attention to her. Particularly if she is telling me she is being assaulted by witches.
The Castevets are great as well, truly dapper and stylist aging French socialites. I would want to be friends with them, too, but seriously, stop touching my stomach, and making me drink green potions. I would’ve fled the country a lot quicker than Rosemary attempted to.
There’s some decent scares, too, approximately one to two per segment. The kills were satisfyingly gory, particularly when her friend Julie bites it in a French culinary school.
I say it’s a good sign, that major Networks are making major Horror releases and airing them on prime time slots. I applaud NBC for having the gall to air Rosemary’s Baby on Mother’s Day, a particularly bloody and sacrilegious gesture. It’s another sign of Horror’s rising legitimacy as a genre, with more people paying attention, which means higher budgets, which means higher production values. All to the good. Rosemary’s Baby didn’t even falter due to the change in tempo and pacing, although, and this is just me, I think it is more successful as an ominous slow crawl than as a adrenaline rush. It works better when it unsettles, rather than startles.
Here’s hoping that this series not only points more people to check out the original, but also to read the book by Ira Levin, which I still haven’t read. I suspect it may be ever more unsettling than the Polanski version. And anything that could get more people to read is a success, in this climate.
As a standalone, big budget TV shocker, it’s half-decent. I would’ve watched it, knowing nothing of the original film or book. But it adds very little to the heritage, and actually detracts a bit, as I’m not pretty convinced that every person in both versions are all terrible people.
Rosemary’s Baby can be viewed, in it’s entirety, along with a bunch of interviews, at the NBC Website.
Did you like it? Hate it? Agree? Strongly disagree? Let us know what you thought in the comments!
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I definitely will. The next step is to read the book by Ira Levin, which I haven’t yet. This series probably won’t do any harm, because the people who aren’t aware of the original probably wouldn’t seek it out, anyway, and the people who are already love it. I think, ultimately, that the slow ominousness of the original does better than the “action packed” modern version. There are some gorgeous visuals, and some good kills, which also make it somewhat worthwhile. It didn’t really add anything to the canon, however.
Thanks for reading and for commenting!
You should re-watch the original, which still holds up perfectly. This version sounds (ironically) soulless. Polanski’s take is genuinely upsetting, with no gore, and all of the performances are thrilling. Most of the characters are still the absolute worst, but in such a believable way — the doctor is horrible to Rosemary (the perfect Mia Farrow! who had been served divorce papers by Sinatra ON SET), but for good reason: the devil’s son must be born! Hail Satan!
The final scene is one of the best in the history of cinema.
If this remake keeps even one person from watching the original, then it’s demonic, and not in a good way.