The devil is making Hollywood do it. In particular, we mean that little demon brought into the world in 1968's Rosemary's Baby. The Roman Polanski chiller that starred Mia Farrow as birth mother to the Antichrist is inspiring studio execs to sign new pacts with the prince of darkness. ''Go to any video store in Los Angeles and you won't be able to find a copy of Rosemary's Baby in stock,'' says a development executive at Twentieth Century Fox. ''That and The Exorcist are the films everybody's turning to for ideas.''
''I get at least 10 calls a week from producers wanting to know: 'Are you coming out with a book that has a Rosemary's Baby thing going on?''' says one L.A. literary agent, who prefers to remain anonymous to keep her telephone overload at bay. ''And that's a slow week.''
With tried-and-true formulas like actioners and sexy thrillers failing at the box office, even celebs appear to be looking to Satan. According to industry sources, Kevin Costner, Sharon Stone, and Devil in a Blue Dress director Carl Franklin have let it be known they're interested in good old-fashioned tales of supernatural possession. With that in mind, a coven of devil-inspired movies are in the works.
THE RELIC Directed by Peter Hyams (2010, TimeCop) and produced by Gale Anne Hurd (Terminator), this suspenser about demons unleashed in Chicago's Field Museum stars Penelope Ann Miller. Paramount's expected to release it next summer.
THE EIGHTEENTH ANGEL Rysher Entertainment is producing this gothic-tinged thriller about a Harvard prof's daughter who becomes enmeshed in the occult. Penned by The Omen's David Seltzer and scheduled to be directed by William Bindley (Freeze Frame), the film is still being cast. Shooting starts in February, with a fall release expected.
FALLEN In development at Atlas Entertainment and Turner Pictures, this crime-horror tale follows a cop on the trail of a killer who turns out to have a very devilish history.
NIGHT WATCH Steven Soderbergh (King of the Hill) is scripting the remake of the Danish film about a night watchman at a morgue who is accused of murder. The project is in development at Miramax's Dimension Films.
Also on the drawing board is an as-yet-untitled possession project for Universal from horror meister Clive Barker that will incorporate a techno theme.
As producer Hurd sees it, the time is right for the fiendish thriller. ''People are fascinated with good versus evil now maybe more than ever,'' says Hurd, adding that ''Rosemary's Baby has become the prototype of what to aim for because it was character driven and it had revelations you just weren't expecting.''
Still, Hollywood's ultimate motivation is box office. When the low-budget Christopher Walken devil-themed Prophecy opened in September with next to no fanfare and raked in $7.5 million its first weekend jaws dropped. ''If a movie like that can open so huge with no stars and little press, well, the mind boggles,'' says one industry insider currently at work on a possession film. ''We're getting a sign from the public that they want this type of movie again.''
Scare flicks have also gotten a boost from such successes as 1991's Silence of the Lambs, this season's Seven, and best-selling books from Stephen King and Anne Rice. ''There was such a bias against the genre,'' says Barker. ''Now it's finally being regarded as a crowd-pleaser art form.''
Another factor encouraging studios to go occult: advances in technology. ''There's so much more at our fingertips, and that makes exploring [a Rosemary's Baby] type film even more exciting," says Eighteenth Angel's Bindley. ''The ride for audiences this time will be even wilder.''
So with the rediscovery of Rosemary, is a sequel inevitable? Bob Evans, the then Paramount chief who was Rosemary's guiding force, says no. ''There's no way to recapture the magic,'' says Evans, who confirms that execs all over town are rescreening the film. But Evans does believe a demon heir apparent is long overdue. ''[Rosemary's Baby] was about something that we can relate to even more today,'' he says. ''Who wouldn't want to have a movie like it out now? It just plain scared people to death!''