There’s a challenge presented with the quasi-remake/new adaptation of the Ira Levin novel “Rosemary’s Baby.” The Roman Polanski masterpiece has been seen by everyone, and it’s been remade and copied a hundred times over by studios since its initial release, and is still being remade unofficially. So how can “Rosemary’s Baby” seem fresh in this day and age? The writers and Lionsgate go about it the wrong way, obviously. They over sexualize, over stylize, and remove any and all themes of feminist repression from the source material. It’s also what made the original Polanski film such a biting horror film. Even in 2014. It was a woman seeking independence and doomed to motherhood by a cult who’d bred the son of Satan through her.
Now “Rosemary’s Baby” is a stretched out and often boring mystery lacking any of the satanic themes, and simplicity in favor of a larger narrative involving premonitions, a shifty house cat, and unnecessary gore that attempts to compensate for the lack of atmosphere and tension. Everything about Rosemary coming to birth the son of Satan seems orchestrated from minute one, but there’s never an explanation why or how. Is the Satanic cult sentient? Did they foresee her arrival to Paris? Also, all of what happens could have likely been avoided if Rosemary returned Margaux Castevet’s wallet to her doorman and left. Why does Rosemary feel so strongly compelled to deliver her wallet to her in person including an introduction? It just makes zero sense to the narrative and is sloppily included just to move the story forward. I tried to view this as its own entity, but it cribs from Polanski’s film much too often to be considered just another iteration.
While it does garner moments of compelling storytelling and creepy sequences, they’re too few and far between to be savored. The Castevets are now no longer intrusive neighbors that completely take us off guard with their intense love for their Satanic practices. They’re now two very attractive wealthy folks that run their own private club they’re more than happy to bring Rosemary and her husband Guy in to, without question. Guy Woodhouse is still a pompous blowhard, but a writer and dancer who moves himself and Rosemary to Paris to study and work. The writers expand the story this time by pitting a lot more focus on Guy and his seduction in to darkness, and Patrick J. Adams can never seem to know how to play him. Sometimes Guy is a pompous idiot who welcomes his fate, and other times he’s an accidental good guy who walks in to the clutches of the Castevets. The main downfall of the film, though, is the sheer miscasting of Zoe Saldana.
Saldana not only has no idea how to pull off the horrified and bewildered demeanor that come with playing Rosemary, but she plays most of her role almost as if she’s going to break out in hysterical screaming any minute. From her introduction down to the final scene, she seems already easily hysterical and it can become grating to the point of inadvertent comedy. Even in moments of subtlety, she overplays Rosemary and can never seem to dial down her emotional distress. That’s likely because Saldana simply doesn’t know how to play meek and fragile, thus she spends most of the movie on the verge of tears. The 2014 remake of “Rosemary’s Baby” is still just another abysmal reworking of a classic horror film that trades genuine terror and subtlety in favor of endless padding and story elements that amounts to nothing. It has a golden opportunity to rework the story elements and perhaps provide a commentary on feminism in the modern age. Instead, it does nothing more than flaunt its over sexualized cast, include a ton of gratuitous gore and sex scenes, and leave absolutely nothing to the imagination.