Now I don’t tend to be a huge fan of the ‘psychological horror’ but there is a huge exception to this with today’s film. By far the most internally frightening film I’ve ever watched and definitely one of the most effective. Roman Polanski’s 1968 masterpiece, Rosemary’s Baby!!
‘Rosemary’s Baby’ is probably what would be considered a ‘slow burn’ of a film. By that I mean, it takes its time, building up the tension, building up the paranoia until the unforgettable climax. It keeps its intensity on full throughout the entire film and immerses you in so far that it is impossible to remove your eyes from the screen. Writing this now, I’m struggling to think of many more films that are so minimalistically effective. It’s that minimalist style that Polanski uses in this film that is the true genius of it…but to understand what I’m going to say next, I’ll give you a short plot summary.
Rosemary’s Baby centres around Mia Farrow’s ‘Rosemary’ who, with her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes) moves into a new apartment in New York City. There, they meet the seemingly very friendly neighbours, Minnie and Roman Castavet, portrayed brilliantly by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer. Guy begins spending a lot of time with their new neighbours causing Rosemary to wander the new apartment complex alone. Strange things begin to happen however, Rosemary has strange dreams, hears strange noises and a woman she met in the laundry room mysteriously dies. One of Rosemary’s dreams seems more real than others though. She falls pregnant but Guy becomes rather distant and she starts to suspect that her new neighbours might have plans of their own for her child.
I won’t give any more than that away but I will say that this film has a rather satanic air about it. No film since has ever created the emotional paranoia and ultimate personal horror that Rosemary’s Baby did and that is the stroke of genius…which is exactly what this film is.
Moving onto performances, as I’ve said, Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer are terrific as the Castavets, who display a pleasantness on the surface but you always suspect them of having ulterior motives inside. John Cassavetes as Guy is overshadowed by the rest of the major cast but is more than good in his role. The real star of course is Mia Farrow though. She really was born to play Rosemary. The panic, the anxiety, the vulnerability and the loneliness are all portrayed incredibly by Farrow…just look at those eyes on the feature image.
Farrow’s performance anchors this film which already has magnificent direction, beautifully mysterious music and an atmosphere that struggles to be matched by any horror film or any film for that matter and when you have all these elements working as perfectly as they do in Rosemary’s Baby, you cannot go wrong.
The climax to Rosemary’s Baby is one of the most unforgettable in cinema history. I’m sure you’re all aware of Mia Farrow screaming hysterically to a group of neighbours ‘What have you do to it!? What have you done to its eyes!?’. That line alone is not only one of the best quotes in horror cinema but one of the most genuinely terrifying and the fact that you don’t even get to see the newborn baby on camera adds to this terror as you can imagine yourself what this baby is. Like I say, the satanic tone is important in this film.
This film was given an 18 rating (or X in the U.S.) when it was released in 1968. How many films do you know from the 60’s with such a rating…that’s how you know Rosemary’s Baby is something special.
You won’t be seeing another psychological horror (I don’t think) on this journey after this as like I’ve said, it’s not my favourite sub-genre, so I don’t watch them, but this one is really special…a must watch, and I know I say that a lot, but I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.
Tomorrow we come to one of my favourites of the entire genre, a film I really love, from the same year, but completely different. Going back to our fear of radiation, we have the birth of the modern zombie thanks to the master, George Romero.
Let me know your thoughts on this film in the comments and contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any inquiries or suggestions for improvements to posts!
The Journey Continues Tomorrow