Since I’m basically volunteering to do Remaketober, there’s basically no guidelines to what does and doesn’t get included. Two years ago I included the 2011 version of The Thing, despite technically being a prequel, not a remake. As a result, a lot of what I include is based on my own time and desires; I probably won’t include Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Dracula any time soon, just because there’s so many versions to cover. I am willing to try and include a variety of different mediums, though more often than not TV shows get excluded just because of time restraints.
Miniseries on the other hand, especially only 2 episode miniseries, are a different matter.
Due to reasons I won’t go into here, people don’t generally watch or acknowledge Roman Polanski movies all that much anymore. There are a couple of exceptions to this, and Rosemary’s Baby is one of them. It is, among film buffs at least, regarded as a classic horror film, and was extremely well received at the time, garnering a bunch of Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars, which it won.
This is the first time I’ve rewatched this movie in many years, and I can still see why it’s so well regarded. It’s a very subtle movie, on an incredibly slow burn. But it works, the mounting dread building up until it becomes nearly unbearable. For a while it seems like the movie might even wind up deciding that Rosemary is imagining things, before pulling the rug out from under the audience for the big reveal.
The vast majority of this movie is resting on Mia Farrow’s shoulders. The film never leaves her point of view, even for a single scene, and the story is entirely dependent on her to carry it. It’s good that she’s excellent in this movie then, since so much is riding on her. Her emotional journey is probably one of the better ones in horror history, eventually culminating in one of the darker final scenes I’ve seen in a horror movie.
There’s more I could praise, like the excellent direction, the fantastic cinematography, the unique and eyecatching editing or even the subtly great soundtrack, but honestly, I don’t need to. I know this movie is great, you know this movie is great, your friends and family know this movie is great, everyone knows. A deliberately paced, completely bloodless mystery like this wouldn’t have remained one of the more famous horror films of the last 50 years unless it was absolutely fantastic, and it is.
Despite all that, it seems like an odd choice for a remake. It’s remained in the public conscious yes, but it’s also so completely unlike any modern (American) horror film that I can’t imagine how one would pull it off while still giving audiences what they want to see. Any remake would theoretically have the defense of saying it’s merely re-adapting the source novel, rather than a straight ahead remake, but that defense is flimsy, and rarely holds up to scrutiny. But despite all that, in 2014 (ironically the same year the original film was inducted into the Library of Congress) a remake was produced. For NBC.
I have covered a wide variety of remakes on Remaketober, and I’m sure I’ll cover more, but Rosemary’s Baby might be the strangest one of them all. It’s desperately trying to be its own entity, while at the same time being slavishly devoted to the original, while ALSO being a fairly terrible adaptation of the novel. It’s not without its moments, and on the few occasions that it calls on Zoe Saldana to bring it, she brings it hard, but overall its just a bizarre mess of a remake.
The biggest problem, the one at the root of the majority of the problem, is the switchover to TV, or rather the decision to go for 2, 2 hour long timeslots. That’s just about 2 hours and 50 minutes total, and for a story that was already deliberately (read: slow, but I like it) paced at 2 hours and 15 minutes, that’s stretching things way too thin. The end result is the miniseries is left scrambling for content wherever it can find it.
The effect of this is throwing the tone completely off. The miniseries is unwilling (or, more likely, unable) to allow the tension to build slowly, so the horror sequences are isolated into single scenes. That might be fine, but the extended run time of the miniseries gives the audience too much time to settle back down and relax after each scene. As a result the attempts at horror are really isolated among what is otherwise a slightly weird character drama.
The other major issue that sticks out to me is the decision to jettison one of the original’s most important artistic decisions; The decision to stick completely within Rosemary’s POV. The film hops around to follow Guy, Rosemary’s buddies and even Margaux and Roman occasionally. This annihilates the mystery before it even gets going, as it becomes way too clear way too fast what’s going on, and the possibility that Rosemary is just losing it never holds any traction (if upgrading the elimination of Guy’s rival from ‘Going blind’ to ‘Slitting their own throat with scissors’ didn’t tip their hand, and make the entire scene kind of silly on top of it).
The weird decision to move the action to Paris serves mostly to sever any argument that the miniseries is cleaving closer to the book, and to overlay the cult with an extremely cliched ‘European Decadence’ that robs the original cult of its terrifying normalcy that the original movie had. But to be fair, it does lead to some amusing moments like when it seems like Margaux is hitting on Rosemary, so I guess it’s not as bad as it could be?
There are a variety of other issues I could point out, both large (the way the alterations to the plot drain it of logic and common sense) and small (absent the monologue about what the purpose of Satan’s child is, it seems like the cult’s plan was…just to get some lady pregnant) but…I think I’m about done. It’s a weird and oddly pointless remake, without much to recommend it. It doesn’t even have the argument that a lot of modern remakes have, that it’s shorter, since it’s over half an hour longer.
Next week on Remaketober, we explore yet another movie that could, theoretically, include a TV show. But it won’t. Cause the thing has three seasons and counting.