Monday, May 12, 2014

Silver Screen To Small Screen: Rosemary's Baby

The world of television and the world of cinema are intersecting much more than ever before.

"Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." on ABC is set in the same universe as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While I thought that show got off to a very slow start, its picked up in a way I could have never thought imaginable. Had the show taken off in its first half as it did in the second half, the show would have set an unbelievable bar. But Marvel isn't superhuman (pun totally intended), and I am glad they have got on the right footing with  their show. I hope their spin-off "Agent Carter" can fire on the same cylinders as the last half of "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and I hope their Netflix shows do the same. Then there is "Fargo," the new series on FX. That show isn't an adaptation of the movie, but the show is uses the same styles, tones and ideas from the 1996 film. I have loved the first episode, and I can't wait to catch up with it. We will definitely be discussing that more in the upcoming days. I have only watched the first episode of the second season of NBC's "Hannibal," but I have heard incredible things about it, and I can't wait to dig deeper into that story too.

Tonight, I checked out the first part of "Rosemary's Baby," the new mini-series event on NBC. I was eager to check it out. The original film was released in 1968, it starred Mia Farrow and it was based on the novel of  the same name by Ira Levin. The original film was a hypnotic blend of unsettling atmosphere and spooky scares. There is a reason why "Rosemary's Baby" is hailed as a classic, it featured a little something for every type of horror fan. If you remember when I reviewed "The Sacrament" last Thursday, I mentioned how religious horror is definitely something that continually irks me, and "Rosemary's Baby" was no different. Sure, there was some goofball dialogue and scenes, but the disturbing tension to the film never ceased.

I was excited for the mini-series because I liked the original film and I really dig Zoe Saldana. The role of Rosemary is definitely something much different than anything Saldana has ever attempted. This could be the first breakthrough in a new range for her. I also loved that Jason Isaacs was in it, and that he was a villain of some kind. Isaacs is gold when he playing a villain, and I could not watch to sit back and watch him let loose.
I didn't catch it on Sunday night so I caught up with part one tonight after "24: Live Another Day." I have to be honest and say that I thought part one was a mixed bag. As I thought, both Saldana and Isaacs are wonderful in their roles. Saldana is doing great work as a naive yet determined young woman trying to make sense of the situation she finds herself in. Isaacs is completely ripping it up as the calculated, callous evil-doer. The thing is, there is nothing about this mini-series that is has really stood out so far. It feels very much in the realm of television. The surreal atmosphere that was so well-used in the movie is completely absent in the mini-series. In fact, what I saw tonight I wouldn't even call horror, which is a crying shame.

It has been awhile since I have seen the original movie, so there is some stuff that I do not remember about it. But I don't remember a couple living within the apartment house that Rosemary (Saldana) and her husband Guy (Stany Coppet) live in. Part one of the mini-series opened with a woman throwing herself out of a window, and something was absolutely terrifying her. I don't really remember that set-up in the movie, but I like that there was some unfamiliar ground to cover in this new installment. After the suicide, we are quickly introduced to Rosemary and Guy, who have just suffered a miscarriage. Three months after the miscarriage, the couple has moved to Paris. Guy is going to teach English at a French university while he is finishing his book, but he has suffered severe writer's block since the miscarriage.

Once the couple has got settled, they meet Margaux Castevet (Carole Bouquet) and her husband Roman (Isaacs) and once Rosemary and Guy meet the Castevet's, everything suddenly falls into place for them. They get a nice room, Guy's career gets on track and Rosemary's gets pregnant, but all at a terrible cost. Rosemary also discovers that the room the Castevet's gave them belonged to the woman who committed suicide at the beginning of the episode. Something sinister is going on, but we never feel the urgency of it. The tension is not there, there is really no feeling at all to the drama we see. Plus, how everything falls together for Rosemary, it feels more in the vein of "The Omen" instead of "Rosemary's Baby" which was too bad.

Plus, the mini-series completely missed the big moment. You know it from the film and you'll know it when you see it in the mini-series. It was a complete miss for me. In the movie, the night when Rosemary gets pregnant, the scene was a nightmarish sequence. It was completely disorienting, surreal and absolutely horrific. We felt Rosemary's confusion, despair and horror and it was just an absolute creepshow. The mini-series handles the scene in a much different way, except its very boring and kind of laughable. I was not asking them to simply repeat the original scene from the movie. I just thought it would capture the dreamlike imagery and scary atmosphere of the scene. It didn't do that at all and I was very disappointed.

The acting is very good, but this mini-series feels more like a high-concept mystery instead of a horror series. I hope that changes slightly in the conclusion airing on Thursday. Hopefully the conclusion can milk some of the atmosphere and intensity the mini-series desperately needs. I find that these parallels between two screened mediums to be interesting to say the least. I will definitely be keeping an eye out on more of these parallels. I am not trying to compare the two, but I'll be forever interested in seeing how the two mediums handle the same story, and how they approach the material in different ways.

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