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Originally published Thursday, May 8, 2014 at 3:18 PM

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Stylish horror: new ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Penny Dreadful’

Reviews of the two-part NBC adaptation of the chilling “Rosemary’s Baby” and Showtime’s eight-episode Victorian phantasmagoria “Penny Dreadful.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer


‘Rosemary’s Baby’

9 p.m. Sunday, May 11, on NBC.

‘Penny Dreadful’

10 p.m. Sunday, May 11, on Showtime.


Because of my job, I have one of those DVRs that can record five shows at once. It still gets overloaded sometimes on Sunday nights, due to the logjam of programming.

There are two new intriguing — and spooky — shows to consider this week. Care to guess when they’re scheduled?

First up is a surprisingly good network miniseries remake of “Rosemary’s Baby” (at 9 p.m. Sunday, May 11, on NBC), with Zoe Saldana taking the role played by Mia Farrow in the 1968 film. (The conclusion airs Thursday, May 15, at the same time on NBC.)

The setting has been shifted from Manhattan to Paris, but the subtext is still apartment porn, as Saldana and her struggling hubby (Patrick J. Adams of “Suits”) are offered a stunning crib in a stately building with a dark history.

Not only that, thanks to their worldly neighbors/ patrons (Jason Isaacs and Carole Bouquet), all of Adams’ artistic ambitions are realized.

But as we learned in the original, when John Cassavetes played the venal husband, it’s one thing to make a deal with the devil. It’s another to throw your wife’s womb into the bargain.

This mini reproduces the movie’s singular feat of being scary without being graphic, accomplishing more with mood and suggestion than overt shocks. It allows your imagination to fill in the terrible details. In fact, the conception scene still grips, though it’s far less vivid than in Roman Polanski’s movie.

Director Agnieszka Holland displays great visual control over the material and, with assurance, incrementally tightens the noose on the suspense. And Saldana gives a captivating performance, even in the character’s most hysterical and wildly bereft ranges.

The same night on Showtime, another striking-looking woman, Eva Green, stars in a new monster-mash of a series, “Penny Dreadful” (10 p.m.).

Set in London in 1891, this eight-episode Victorian phantasmagoria throws together characters both fictional and fantastic. Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney with a Keith Urban haircut) mingles with vampires, Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) with a Wild West marksman (Josh Hartnett).

The production and period values are outstanding, as is the cast, especially Timothy Dalton as famed African explorer Sir Malcolm Murray. Even the guest stars are impressive, such as Simon Russell Beale as an operatic Egyptologist and David Warner as Van Helsing.

As creator John Logan moves away from the horror by the Thames and more toward the internal demons that haunt his protagonists, “Penny” veers toward the overwritten and overwrought. But by then, you may well be in for a pound.

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