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55 out of 71 people found the following review useful:

In a word, outstanding.

Author: oyason from United States
19 February 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are only a tiny handful of horrorfilms that really deserve the superlative outstanding, but Rosemary's Baby is definitely on my personal list and damn near the top of the column.

Elements of the supernatural are present; the murderous coven, the devil come to earth, the use of juju to destroy the enemy. But all of these things are at nothing compared to the real horror in Rosemary's life: that she is nothing more then a gestation vessel for her ambitious husband, the gory eccentrics in her building, and the most powerful demon in the Christian pantheon. No one takes her seriously in any other capacity. Even at the end, her last bit of resistance is broken down as Roman Castavet eases her into the role of the "mother of destruction".

I don't think it's any coincidence that Ira Levin wrote this novel or that it became such a huge hit in the sixties, when birth control pills became household words and the first open battles for legal abortion were being waged and won. The strength of this film is that it deals with social issues (reproductive rights) that were actively bouncing between the ears of the greater population of this country, and yet still doesn't become a tedious piece of social realism or agitprop.

The cast of the film is remarkable. Mia Farrow plays a woman protagonist who is far more self identified then the usual female victim in a Gothic, Guy Cassevetes plays a treacherous husband whose actions are beneath contempt, both performances are very precise. The film bounces adroitly from the high camp of Elija Cook's fastidious building superintendent to the great white fatherliness seen in Maurice Evan's character Hutch. The use of Ruth Gordon is inspired, having Sidney Blackmer play straight man to her zaniness even more so. The very fine comedienne Patsy Kelly shows up as a more obstreporous member of the coven, Ralph Bellamy is sedate and subdued as the suave warlock Sapperstein. And somehow or other, director Roman Polanski managed to tie all these energies together and create a solid, consistent package with a subdued pace that is both hysterical and chilling at the same time. It is one powerful satire.

Finally, the film contains one very strong nightmare sequence. Dreams are scary, Neil Gaiman reminds us,but there are few portrayed on film as strikingly as the one Rosemary has under a drug induced slumber on the night of her demonic group rape and the child's conception.

Rosemary's Baby is a magnificent effort. And I believe it set a standard that every new horror film should be measured against, just as the film 2001 has become for many admirers of science fiction one of the benchmarks of that genre.

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32 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Truly terrifying

Author: ginger_sonny from London, England
27 August 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Roman Polanski's horror classic is literally pregnant with paranoia. Mia Farrow gets an iconic cropped 'do, John Cassavetes broods

Halfway through Polanski's classic psycho-horror, Rosemary (Farrow) decides to chop off her bob. Not since Delilah took to Samson's barnet has a haircut signalled such a decline.

It's at that moment that Rosemary's slump into madness begins. She's pregnant, she's in love with husband Cassavetes, and living in a beautiful new apartment. But a burning pain in her womb tells her something's not right. Why are her elderly neighbours so concerned? Why has hubby's career suddenly blossomed? Surely her memory of being raped by Satan was just a dream?

Ira Levin's story erodes Rosemary's sanity drip by drip. A pierced ear, a foul smelling charm, a chocolate mousse with a chalky flavour, these are the unlikely fertilisers of her paranoia. In Polanski's hands their significance remains chillingly ambiguous as he explores the natural alienation of pregnancy. Truly terrifying.

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23 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

Rosemary's Fight

Author: Chrysanthepop from Fraggle Rock
2 March 2009

Polanski successfully sets the tone right from the beginning as the strange and somewhat scary lullaby plays as the opening credits appear. In the background we see Rosemary's neighborhood while the focus is on her window. This tone is maintained throughout the entire film. The film is quite well executed. Polanski creates a gloomy, isolated and chilling mood. 'Rosemary's Baby' is a horror film but unlike most movies of this genre, this one is very subtle and is more dependent on the atmosphere rather than the 'horror creatures'. It is only in the excellently executed nightmare sequence, which is comprised of fragments of scenes, that one witnesses something 'out of the ordinary'. I was initially dissatisfied by the ending but after some thought, I couldn't think of a better more effective conclusion. The ending itself is so spine-chilling and makes the movie experience more horrifying. The haunting lullaby replays in the end capturing that moment of horror like a photographic memory. The cast does a fine job though clearly this is Farrow's film. Mia Farrow is spellbinding. The way she captures Rosemary's kindness, agony, anguish, fragility and courage is noteworthy. She is simply amazing to watch. I can understand why it is still so popular after 40 years. There has been hardly anything else like it.

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22 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

"Awful things happen in every apartment house"

Author: Steffi_P from Ruritania
26 November 2006

Rosemary's Baby was originally proposed as a project to Alfred Hitchcock. He turned it down, and instead it fell to the up-and-coming Polish director Roman Polanski. It's hard to imagine what the master of suspense would have made out of this tale of devil worship and Catholic guilt, even though there is some Hitchockian psychology and mystery at work. As it was however, it proved to be right up the young Polanski's street, taking his career to new heights, and spawning a run of occult horrors in the late 60s and early 70s, of which this is still one of the few greats.

Polanski had already established himself as a director most comfortable with the confinement of interiors in films like Repulsion (1965). Here he draws us right into the claustrophobic feel of the upstairs apartment, often placing the camera in a room adjacent to the action, with the characters viewed through a doorway. The camera movement is mostly restricted to pans. It rarely tracks or dollys, as if it were trapped in a corner. Even in the exterior scenes the sky is often sandwiched or blotted out altogether between the buildings rising on either side. The actors often appear uncomfortably close to the camera, but not in individual close-up shots. Instead, they come in that close as they move around the set and the camera pans back and forth. Not only does this add to the cramped, awkward atmosphere, but this constantly changing distancing of actors within a single shots makes the audience feel as if they are actually standing there.

Rosemary's Baby may come across as very slow to some viewers. 140 minutes certainly is a long time in the horror genre. There do also appear to be a lot of unnecessary details in the dialogue – we get to find out far more about Rosemary's background than is normal for a character in cinema. But for one thing, Polanski was not interested in making a shock-and-gore horror – Rosemary's Baby is all about the eerie atmosphere, the tension and the mystery. He holds our attention by regularly dropping in clues that something sinister is afoot. Furthermore, all the detail and depth has its significance in the finished product – like the references to Rosemary's Catholic upbringing or the background of the Castavets.

Polanski has never overused flashy techniques – no fast editing, zooms or unusual angles that make for a very obvious directorial style. But there is always great complexity and meaning in the look of things – the set design, lighting, costume and so on. One of my favourite touches is Mia Farrow's extremely short Vidal Sassoon hairdo that she has done halfway through the film. With her bony features and pale skin she more and more begins to resemble a skeleton, especially under the carefully placed lighting in the scene after the party when she realises the pain has gone. It's simple yet significant ideas like that which make Polanski one of the best directors of his era.

There's some great casting in this picture. Careful choice of character actors makes for some quirky supporting roles. Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes are perfect in the lead roles. The musical score – that haunting opening melody, or the atonal violin squeaks – all add to the atmosphere.

Rosemary's Baby is a real landmark in horror. It helped keep the genre alive by pushing the occult - something fairly taboo, and not fully explored in cinema since the days of silents - to the fore. Also the restrained atmospheric horror was doubtless influential, particularly on Kubrick when he came to make The Shining. It inspired a lot, but was rarely bettered.

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24 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

A scary slice of paranormal paranoia

Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
12 April 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Young marrieds in New York City--he a Broadway hopeful, she a contented housewife--get the apartment of their dreams, but the wife is uncomfortable with her new neighbors right from the start. Mia Farrow is incredibly genuine as Rosemary Woodhouse; present in just about every scene, Farrow is handled exactly right by director Roman Polanski, who shows an unerring eye for detail. Polanski, who also adapted the screenplay, apparently loved the book by Ira Levin because there are details on the screen taken straight from Levin's pages (the book now reads like a novelization of the film). Some of my favorite scenes: Rosemary, looking at the belongings left behind by the last tenant of her future apartment, seeing a note that reads, "I can no longer associate myself...", asking the manager, "Why would she cover up her vacuum cleaner and her towels?"; Rosemary dreaming about a mistake she made in Catholic school, confusing it with an argument going on next door and hearing her neighbor's braying voice, "Now we have to start all over!"; John Cassavetes (in a brave performance as Guy) rushing home from the theater, nervous and serious, to pull a fast one on a dear friend; Rosemary staring at her neighbor's pierced ear, the music swelling up in the background; Rosemary in her doctor's office, telling the receptionist she's wearing a new perfume ("Detchema") and finding out her smelly usual (a devilish fungus called "Tannis Root") is a favorite of... It's a stunning, stupendous effort with plush production, a fantastic supporting cast, creepy music from Christopher Komeda (with a title theme la-la-la'ed by Farrow herself) and an incredible amount of cunning wit and the blackest kind of humor.

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13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Terrifying; a timeless, paranoid classic

Author: Mr_Ectoplasma from New York, NY
30 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Rosemary's Baby" centers on Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow and John Cassavettes), a young, happy couple who move into a New York City apartment building to start their life together. They are greeted by their elderly neighbors, Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer), an eccentric and friendly couple who are helpful but a bit intrusive. Rosemary and Guy plan on having a baby together, but the conception is strange and seems to have happened while Rosemary was dreaming. All the while, Minnie and Roman seem to form an unusual relationship with Guy, and begin to take over all the duties and events revolving around Rosemary's pregnancy - things that should be up to the mother. Meanwhile, Rosemary begins to lose weight, is constantly ill, and has odd pains in her stomach - things that aren't normal in a healthy pregnancy. After a series of strange events, Rosemary soon becomes convinced that Minnie and Roman are part of a Satantic cult, and that they have made some sort of exchange with Guy... a horrific exchange that involves Rosemary and her baby.

Maybe one of the greatest stories of betrayal to grace the silver screen, this adaptation from Levin's phenomenal novel is done neatly and the transfer to the screen is brilliant. The film, like the book, takes its time, but the slow-going nature gives plenty of room for formidable suspense and atmosphere.

One of the scariest things about "Rosemary's Baby" is its affect on the viewer. The paranoia, fear, claustrophobia, and foreboding that Rosemary feels channels directly to the audience, and you by proxy experience what she's experiencing. The first forty-five minutes or so seem fairly conventional, but after that the film goes into a straight downward spiral into madness, and by God do you feel it. There's a consistent sense of something not being quite right, mainly with the neighbors whose motives are questionable behind their friendly facade, and this feeling never dissipates. Within the element of the betrayal are the layers of subjects that make it a horror film— the Satanic society, the occult, strange rituals, the Antichrist, and the overall demonic subtext. It's all quite terrifying, and the contents of the plot are all sinister subjects.

The film looks amazing, as if it could have been shot just last week. Nice camera-work that is subtle and neat, but shaky and effective when needed. The settings are all truly spooky, and the Dakota is is photographed to its full Gothic effect.

Mia Farrow stars in the performance of her career as the young, naive Rosemary. All she wants is the ideal life with her husband and child, but she is swept into something more terrifying than she could ever imagine. Farrow plays the part precisely and gains plenty of sympathy from the audience. Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for her portrayal of the Woodhouse's nosy neighbor, Minnie. She's friendly and inquisitive, but we know from the start that she has ulterior motives, as well as her husband. John Cassavettes plays Guy excellently, and Sidney Blackmer is great as well as Minnie's odd husband.

As for the ending, it's a shocker, and probably the most memorable thing about the entire movie. It's something that will stick with you and that you can't easily shake, but is ambiguous enough to keep you asking questions.

Overall, "Rosemary's Baby" is a through-and-through classic. While it isn't 'scary' by conventional means, it manages to maintain a subtle, foreboding atmosphere, unnerving the audience to the point of paranoia. The performances are top-notch, and the subject matter is as shuddering as the Castevet's dark, evil intrusion into Rosemary's life. You'll spend an uncomfortable but spellbinding two hours on the edge of your seat. Isn't that what a good horror movie should do? 10/10.

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16 out of 24 people found the following review useful:


Author: tedg ( from Virginia Beach
15 March 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoilers herein.

This is absolutely the most terrifying film ever made dealing with supernatural evil. Forget `The Exorcist,' that's kid stuff. Forget the hundreds of `jumping out of the dark' gore pictures. `The Shining'? effete. This has guts like the old horror radio shows used to because I can imagine something worse than anything you can make up and show with rubber and catsup.

And surprisingly, this film has aged well, even improved as the hippie era is now long gone.

Mia is preciously delicate, open. Her commitment to this film makes it real. One can feel her taking personal risks and this reflects on her character. Roman almost goes too far here, after `Repulsion,' walking the edge of suspense, slowly building, relentlessly restrained. He so eclipses Hitchcock in his camerawork; he so stamps this with a East European mystical surrealism that I wonder why this film is not more celebrated.

When `The Exorcist' came out five years later, the publicity machine made much of supernatural happenings on the set, in an attempt to make the film seem more real. But this film is damned creepy when you look at its history.

Many people were students of magick in those days, as part and parcel of spiritual exploration. Mia gets into this film rather by accident, has an affair with Polanski during it. Divorces her husband the singing thug and finishes the film. Goes to India with the Beatles, Donovan and Beach Boys to meditate, during which John and Paul write thirty songs based on Kabbalah. Inspired in part by Crowley.

This album inspires Manson to kill Polanski's wife, mistakenly thinking the house was occupied by someone close to the Beach Boys. Lennon takes up with Yoko directly on returning from India. Her interest in the occult leads her to the Dakota, where they keep their home until John is killed. During which period, Yoko has a parade of occultists and mystics, even the largest private US collection of Egyptian artifacts.

Polanski meanwhile makes the most powerful `Macbeth' ever filmed because of its emotional take on evil anarchy. Then he is exiled from the US. After a long dry spell and much preparation, makes `The Ninth Door.' which shows incredible understanding of the occult tradition in art, and his own role -- his current wife plays the supernatural agent of semiotic art. Pacing and direction refers to `Rosemary,' but is less confident, more frightened.

Jesus, scary enough for me.

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28 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

Surprisingly meh.

Author: gon_zolo from Wisconsin
20 October 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I rented Rosemary's Baby after having heard for many years what a perfect horror film it was. I thoroughly enjoy psychological thrillers and horror films like the Exorcist, Alien, Prince of Darkness, and the entire Hitchcock oeuvre, so I thought Rosemary's Baby was right up my alley.

Sadly I was mistaken. Most of the movie I ended up yelling at Mia Farrow's character to DO something (Rosemary really is a spineless, mindless idiot), when I wasn't groaning over the rather hammy performances of the other actors. Perhaps I'm too young to understand the "helpless woman" type of character, but instead of being in fear for Rosemary, I was simply annoyed by her.

The "rape scene" was the "highlight" of the movie, in that it had some genuinely creepy sequences (again, her husband's appearance and dialogue seemed out of place, but that was a minor part of the sequence). The rest of the movie, while trying to seem normal and everyday, just seemed obvious and annoyingly overacted. Even if you didn't figure out that the neighbors were up to something in the first few minutes, I would think you'd still be annoyed by them.

The supposed twist ending isn't really a twist at all, at least to me. It did provide some surprising laughs, as I don't think I've ever laughed that hard at a "Hail Satan!" Again, its supposed to be creepy that supposedly normal people are saying this, but it just comes off as campy.

All together, I really can't understand why this is still considered one of the great horror movies of all time. In 1968 Rosemary's helplessness might have led to psychological scares. In 2009 it just leads to frustration.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Nowadays, this film is an anomaly--a scary movie that uses atmosphere and suggestion, instead of gore.

Author: Robert Hirschfeld ( from Dobbs Ferry, NY
20 March 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's hard to discuss this film without using spoilers, so I'll get the non-spoiler part done first. Seeing this movie a few decades after my first viewing only confirms my high opinion of Polanski as a brilliant director. In an age when most directors seem to confuse gallons of stage blood and severed body parts with scariness, it's refreshing to be reminded that the most frightening movies need not resort to the grand guignol technique. This one does it with subtle suggestions and carefully crafted atmosphere, and the result is infinitely more effective than the confections in which hideously scarred maniacs take chain saws to shoals of nubile coeds, etc., etc., etc. The acting is quite good throughout: Farrow embodies vulnerable innocence, Cassavettes nails his role, and Ruth Gordon is sublime--was this the film that revitalized her career? It certainly deserved to be. But the star of this film, in terms of who makes the biggest contribution, is Polanski. The end result is a wonderfully evocative and chilling movie that works as well now as it did in the late 60s. (HERE COME THE SPOILERS---IF YOU DON'T KNOW THE FILM, STOP READING HERE) Leaving aside the question of why people, even in a fiction, would believably choose to be Satanists, the great virtue of this movie is the way in which it progresses by gradual steps from a kind of super-normality into a nightmare. Polanski's touches--the shadowy corners of the elaborate old apartment, a fragment of a faded note written by the former tenant, the illustrations in the book on witchcraft that Rosemary gets from the newly deceased "Hutch"--the contrast between the banal, everyday world around the Woodhouses and the horror Rosemary is slowly but inevitably sucked all works. The whole, to my mind, is greater than the sum of its parts. I would say it can be called a genre classic.

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6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

A dark jewel of-a-movie in the Age of Aquarius's occult crown

Author: Roman James Hoffman from United Kingdom
28 July 2012

What does it mean to give a movie 10/10? It must mean that no part of the film could possibly(!) be better: the characters must be three-dimensional and engage the viewer (whether it be sympathetic or antagonistic); the performances must then bring these characters to life; the script must carry the plot without stale verbiage or cliché; the story itself must be believable or, in the case of horror or science fiction, create the conditions wherein the story can be seen as believable; the editing must make it not a scene too long nor a scene too short; the music must be…and you get the point, right? On each of these points, as well as any other you care to mention, 'Rosemary's Baby' easily qualifies.

Having established himself as an up-and-coming European director in the 1960s with the likes of his debut 'Knife in the Water' (1962), Roman Polanski was brought to America to direct this horror movie about a secret society of Devil worshippers composed of wealthy and distinguished citizens manipulating a young woman into giving birth to the child of Satan in late-60's New York. The film is the second part of Polanski's so-called "apartment trilogy" (the other parts being 'Repulsion (1965)' and 'The Tenant' (1976)) and as such begins with a shot of the Bramford apartment building (in reality the Dakota building which would later be the building John Lennon was shot in front of) which struggling actor Guy Woodhouse (Cassavetes) and his beautiful young wife Rosemary (Farrow) manage to bag a sizable apartment in. Despite being regaled with macabre stories of the history of the "Black Bramford" from their previous landlord/paternal figure Edward "Hutch" Hutchins the couple move in to begin their new life and soon strike up a relationship with an elderly couple, Minnie (Gordan) and Roman Castevet (Blackmer), after a young drug addict in their care kills herself. Not long after (and with the "help" of a dizzying dream/nightmare sequence which is far more authentic than the famed Dali sequence in Hitchcock's 'Spellbound') Rosemary becomes pregnant…but her jubilation is short-lived and soon transforms into a disturbing paranoid nightmare.

For a horror film it is refreshingly free of gore or ridiculous "jump-moments", and instead slowly chills the viewer through an atmosphere which becomes increasingly unnerving and claustrophobic as Rosemary discovers various clues which suggest that the Castevets may be involved in the darkest of dealings, and may have lured Guy into their ranks. However, the film perfectly walks the line between suggesting an actual conspiracy (supernatural or otherwise) and a hysterical paranoid fantasy on Rosemary's part which is surely a testament to the fine performances of every one of the cast. A particular joy of the film are the countless "Oh yeah" moments you get from corroborating, upon repeat viewings, observations made by Rosemary like the mismatched paintings on the walls of the Castevets' apartment when they first visit, or that Guy is still wearing his make-up when he returns home unexpectedly early to disrupt Hutch's visit, all of which contribute to Rosemary suspecting that something is afoot. These subtle psychological ploys unsettle the viewer as they suggest things which we are prone to miss despite being in plain sight and effectively conjures an atmosphere rooted in the familiar but where disturbing figures may be watching from the periphery.

A year later, Polanki's wife Sharon Tate would star in the role which would earn her pop-culture immortality: a butchered victim of Charles Manson's family. As such, with its explicit occult themes (although Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey's involvement as a consultant and the figure of the Devil in the dream sequence has been shown to be false) and its exultant subversion of Nietzsche's "God is Dead!" the film could be seen as an eerie prophecy of the darker vein inherent in the flower-power ideology which ended so abruptly with the Tate-LaBianca slayings…and the post-script of which would be with Lennon's murder outside the Bramfo…Dakota building. Polanski himself would go on to secure his Hollywood A-List status with 'Chinatown' (1974) and 'The Pianist' (2002), but how can one's career improve upon a movie genuinely worthy of 10/10?

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