Rosemary’s Reboot: New Versions of Horror Classics | Pop Culture Advisory

rosemarys_baby_tv_poster_1On May 11, NBC premieres a miniseries remake of Roman Polanski’s bone-chillingly claustrophobic horror film Rosemary’s Baby, this time starring Zoe Saldana. Based on Ira Levin’s classic novel of the same name, the original movie followed Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow), a young housewife who thinks that she and her actor husband have lucked into a prime piece of real estate (the Bramford, a Dakota-esque Upper West Side building), only to realize that she’s living among a coven of Satan-worshipping witches—and that she and her unborn child are in mortal danger. Though there are a few differences, the overall sense of paranoia and looming terror in the original film will hopefully be preserved. Plus, Saldana is rocking the pixie haircut Farrow made famous in the original. It isn’t the only horror masterpiece that directors can’t seem to keep returning to lately, though.

Bates-MotelThe A&E TV series Bates Motel returns to the setting of Alfred Hitchcock’s suspenseful Psycho but updates the setting to the present and sets the events more than a decade before Marion Crane ever set foot there. After the unexpected death of Norman’s father, Norma Bates uproots herself and her teenage son, Norman, from Arizona to White Pine Bay, OR, to open a motel and start a new life. While Psycho has had several blood-drenched sequels and a faithful, though anemic, remake by Gus Van Sant, Bates Motel goes an entirely different route, with a surreal, Twin Peaks–style vibe. Murder cover-ups and unsolved killings are in high supply, of course, but the first season also features an Asian sex ring and bizarre crimes that result from the town being a front for the marijuana trade, and the second season opens with Norman and his mother trying out for community theater. While it may be difficult to get past seeing Norman Bates using an iPhone (to text the hottest girl in town, no less), there’s plenty to savor here. In particular, the tight-knit relationship between Norman and his mother is both appropriately creepy and richly nuanced (due in no small part to Vera Farmiga, who portrays Norma and who is no stranger to playing the mother of psychopaths, having done so in Orphan and Joshua), and the series explores family dysfunction with surprising depth.

Hannibal-TVCannibal serial killer Dr. Hannibal Lecter may have been popularized by Anthony Hopkins’s memorable portrayal in The Silence of the Lambs, but he was first introduced in novelist Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon (which later spawned the films Manhunter and Red Dragon). The novel Red Dragon explained that it was the brilliant but haunted FBI agent Will Graham who eventually brought Lecter’s rash of murders to a close, and Graham also taps the good doctor for help finding another killer. The 2002 film Red Dragon magnified Lecter’s relationship with Graham, treating Lecter as a sort of mentor to the unstable agent, and the new NBC series Hannibal goes even further—Graham teams with Lecter to solve murders while also relying on the doctor’s psychiatric expertise because of his fragile psyche. (Lecter prepares quite a few gruesome repasts along the way, too, for anyone jonesing for liver, fava beans, and a nice Chianti.) Though the many explorations of Lecter have resulted in plenty of missteps (for instance, the poorly received novel Hannibal, which ended by romantically pairing Lecter and Silence protagonist Clarice Starling), this series, currently in its second season on NBC, brings the show a long way from the doctor’s origins but does so with panache and style.

Kevin Williamson’s Scream movies aren’t just frightening slasher flicks and great examples of 90s nostalgia; they’re stellar send-ups of the horror genre and its conventions. An upcoming pilot for an MTV TV series suggests that there might be more Scream to come. There’s little known about the series for now, though supernatural elements may be introduced: rumor has it that this time the infamous ghostface mask hides not a killer but an actual ghost.

carrie-posterThere’s something about Carrie—directors and audiences can’t seem to stop returning to the story of a bullied teenager who finally snaps at prom, telepathically wreaking vengeance on an entire town. Based on the novel by Stephen King, Brian de Palma’s original 1976 film spawned a sequel in 1999 (The Rage: Carrie 2) and a remake last year, starring Chloë Grace Moretz in the title role and Julianne Moore as Carrie’s fervently religious mother). Though this recent film got only a lackluster reception, other remakes of Stephen King originals are in the works: both IT and Pet Sematary may get updated treatments as well.

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Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar ( is an Associate Editor for School Library Journal, and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.