Toned-down 'Rosemary's Baby' still delivers some scares

The Fresno BeeMay 10, 2014 

Jason Isaacs as Roman in "Rosemary's Baby."

NBC

The original "Rosemary's Baby," released in 1968, opened at a time when horror films deeply embraced blood, gore and graphic sex. It was the same year George A. Romero changed the genre forever with his "Night of the Living Dead."

Despite being a cinematic horror bloodbath, "Rosemary's Baby" became a commercial and critical success for its psychological approach to the horror genre. The film created terror and tension through a Gothic setting and creepy characters. It was also a cautionary tale about lust for fame and fortune.

NBC's miniseries, "Rosemary's Baby," continues the psychological themes, but it loses some of the tension and terror by expanding the tale to four hours and moving the setting from New York to Paris.

Zoe Saldana — best known for her work in the updated "Star Trek" movies — plays Rosemary Woodhouse. She and her husband, Guy (Patrick J. Adams), move from New York to Paris after she has a miscarriage. Both believe the change will help them deal with the tragedy.

During a Good Samaritan act, Rosemary meets Margaux Castevet (Carole Bouquet), who invites the Woodhouses to join their inner circle of influential friends. The real reason for Castevet's generosity is that she's a member of a coven of witches and Rosemary has been selected to be impregnated by Satan.

All the group has to do is convince Guy that this is a good idea. They accomplish this by giving the failed writer great literary success.

Saldana turns in a solid performance as the emotionally and physically shaken Rosemary. The role is slightly different than the original, where Mia Farrow came across as being quite frail. Saldana's performance has more strength.

Adams is good, but the original's John Cassavetes brought more of an opportunist feel to the character that made that version more interesting.

There's no question the casting of Bouquet and Jason Isaacs as the devilish Castevets gives the film more sexual energy than what Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer gave the original.

There have been slight variations on events depicted in the original movie and book, but the miniseries generally follows the same story. It's just that the path has been doubled in length. Because the story has been stretched to fill four hours, the action slows — not a good idea when dealing with psychological terror. The tension needs to increase rather quickly to create the anxiety that makes horror films so entertaining.

Moving the story to Paris takes away the foreboding world of the New York apartment building by killing a lot of the darkness.

Even with the changes, there's nothing particularly wrong with NBC's "Rosemary's Baby." It just seems unnecessary because the original film is still one of the best when it comes to smart horror films.

TV REVIEW

"Rosemary's Baby": 9 p.m. tonight and May 15, KSEE (Channel 24.1). Stars Zoe Saldana, Patrick J. Adams, Carole Bouquet, Jason Isaacs. Grade: B-

 

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at www.fresnobeehive.com.

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