Some remakes make perfect sense. In the case of, say, 1988’s underrated The Blob, the ’58 original’s visual effects now make the titular monster look like cherry Jello-O run amok—taking that film’s fun premise and updating it with special effects that don’t immediately make us laugh is a good call. Most remakes, however, don’t serve any purposes of that kind. Even if they’re ultimately not half bad or legitimately strong, modernizations of genre classics like The Fog (which, of course, is terrible), Black Christmas (ditto) and Halloween will forever look and feel like artistically pointless cash-grabs.
NBC’s upcoming four-hour miniseries Rosemary’s Baby, though, is something else entirely. Occasionally, filmmakers and producers can use the old “We’re sticking closer to the original [novel or comic book] than the older movie” defense—it’s usually bullshit, but it always makes for a clickable news post or soundbite. But when Roman Polanski brilliantly adapted Ira Levin’s 1967 novel Rosemary’s Baby back in ’68, he executed a pitch-perfect balancing act, adhering closely to what’s in the book but doing so with his singular director’s eye and ability to orchestrate cinematic suspense. The result: one of the best horror movies ever made, as well as the genuine article among book-to-film translations.
Which leaves NBC and the miniseries’ director Agnieszka Holland (whose past credits include The Wire and The Killing) little to stand on as genre die-hards continue to brandish figurative pitchforks and mob towards them end-of-James-Whale’s-Frankenstein style. Their only tweaks: instead of New York City, Rosemary’s Baby 2014 takes place in Paris, and, yes, Rosemary Castevet is now black (played by Zoe Saldana). Otherwise, though, there’s little to no reason for it to exist. And now there’s a 20-second teaser for skeptics to check out, complete with original star Mia Farrow’s pixie haircut remade atop Saldana’s head. Oh, and also a tagline, “Fear is born,” that’s already been used this year in the found-footage Rosemary’s Baby knockoff Devil’s Due.
Not even half-a-minute long, the teaser isn’t enough to totally write NBC’s miniseries off just yet—after all, Saldana’s a fine actress, and one of the remake’s screenwriters, James Wong, has worked on winning genre properties like American Horror Story and The X-Files But with Saldana’s quasi-Farrow look and its big dialogue moment echoes the O.G.'s "This is really happening!" in Saldana's diction, this first glimpse at NBC’s Rosemary’s Baby screams “derivative.”
There's no exact air date for Rosemary's Baby yet, though sometime either in the summer or October seems logical. Unlike, you know, the miniseries itself.