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Before 'The Exorcist' scared the wits out of people about devil
possession Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby came along in 1968 to scare
the audiences then. Not your typical horror flick; this is slow and
brooding and eventually leads to a shocking and terrifying finale that
only few could have pulled off as flawlessly as Polanski did. This
isn't cheap, schlocky horror, this is pure horror (at its best).
Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavettes) move into a new apartment. Across their room live two elderly people, Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon, in an Oscar winning performance). They are very friendly people and Guy takes an immediate liking to them but Rosemary isn't so sure about them. She hears weird noises coming from their room at night, they seem to take down their pictures whenever they go over to their apartment and other things like that. When Rosemary becomes pregnant they start to become more intrusive. They convince her to switch doctor and Minnie starts giving her "herbal" drinks everyday. It is a rather unpleasant pregnancy, though, Rosemary is having constant pains and soon she starts suspected everyone of foul play.
The mood of this film is set perfectly from the very start when we hear the creepiest piece of music (a lullaby) played over the opening credits (sung by Mia Farrow). Polanski is a genius at setting mood, throughout the whole movie their is a sense of unease that gradually builds until your on the very edge of your seat waiting for the final revelation. Polanski doesn't rely on gore or special effects, in fact, their is (save for one brief moment of a corpse) no gore at all in the film. Very much unlike modern horror films might I add!
The best part of this movie, though, is the outstanding acting. Horror movies are unfortunately part of a stereotype which suggests no good acting can come out of a horror movie. How wrong those people are. Every single performance is perfect. Mia Farrow plays the naive but suspecting wife hauntingly realistic. She truly looks like she is suffering from her pregnancy. John Cassavettes is great as the self-centred Guy, an actor who never really pays attention to his wife. Ruth Gordon, though, is the stand-out performance as Minnie. Although she is a friendly, bubbly, helpful woman there is always a sinister feeling she radiates and the same can be said for Sidney Blackmer as well. Ruth Gordon rightfully deserved that Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
So, if you're looking for a horror film with real scares, top-notch performances, a creepy soundtrack and a hell of a twisted ending look no further than Rosemary's Baby.
Quite simply, one of the best horror movies ever made.
"Rosemary's Baby" is terrifying, and it remains terrifying every time I see it. I watch this, and then I watch what passes today for horror movies ("The Hills Have Eyes" remake is an example), and I simply shake my head in awe and dismay at how far the horror film has fallen.
Everything about this movie hits the right notes. The acting is expert, especially Mia Farrow's hugely underrated performance as the impressionable Rosemary. Roman Polanski's direction is perfect; he eschews the shock horror approach used by directors like William Friedkin and instead creates a subtly creepy atmosphere, ratcheting up the tension gradually until you're ready to jump out of your skin. The production design and cinematography are off-kilter in ways you can't quite define. And the musical score, all plucked strings and jangling piano chords (except for the sinister lullaby that opens the film), is nerve-wracking.
Because every element of the film comes together so well, this supernatural tale feels as realistic as it could possibly be, and one feels that if there is indeed such a thing as the coming of an Anti-Christ, it would happen something like this.
With John Cassavetes, superbly slimy as the sell-out husband; Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer, as the Jewish grandma and grandpa from Hell (literally); Ralph Bellamy as a crooked doctor; and, most effectively, Maurice Evans, poor Rosemary's only ally.
Any number of scenes could qualify as creepiest, but my personal favorite is the one in which Rosemary uses a Scrabble game set to make sense of an anagram. I get shivers just writing about it.
Pray for Rosemary's Baby...
Roman Polanski's Oscar winning masterpiece of horror was the scariest film when released in 1968.
Polanski doesn't show gruesome images and brutally violent scenes. He leaves it to the mind. Like Hitchcock films.
The plot is classic. A young eager husband living in New York is dragged into a demonic world when he is promised riches from a bunch of satanists living in an apartment block in the Bronx. The only exchange... His wife's baby. The chosen son of the devil.
Mia Farrow is outstanding as the innocent mother coveted by a bunch of insane old neighbours who continuously drug her and perform rituals on her just to get her son, the son of Satan. His name will be Adrian.
Polanski's first American film is a timeless classic and one of the scariest films ever made.
"An unnerving cinematic experience"
"Chilling, dark, mysterious... A masterpiece of horror"
"Polanski proved his film-making talents with Rosemary's Baby"
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie means so much to me. It is exceptional in every sense of the
word. It is a film that demands to be viewed more than once, and unlike
most horror movies, where repeated viewing dulls the experience, this
film only becomes more terrifying as you watch it again and again
getting more and more caught up in the conspiracy that surrounds
Mia Farrow is the living, breathing heart of this movie. Appearing in every scene, her delicate portrayal of the beautifully innocent Rosemary Wodehouse provides a stark opposition to the disturbing nature of the movie's true subject. How she didn't win 1968's Best Actress Oscar is beyond me, let alone the fact that she wasn't even nominated.
Polanski's obsession with imbuing the mundane with sinister qualities has never been more effective than in this, his masterpiece (some may argue Chinatown or Repulsion as deserving that title, but Rosemary's Baby takes it simply for the way it manipulates its audience at the same time as forcing them to become emotionally involved in a truly outlandish plot). He is aided here by the film's setting, the creepy Bramford. The film begins with a long-shot of the New York skyline. Komeda's eerily melodic lullaby is being sweetly sung over the pink curly credits by Mia Farrow as the camera eventually settles on the Gothic Bramford building, nestled malevolently amongst the innocuous houses and apartment complexes of modern New York City. As the newlyweds Guy and Rosemary settle in to their newly purchased apartment it becomes increasingly obvious that every step Rosemary takes in search of a modern domestic bliss is in fact sucking her in to a nightmarishly evil scenario beyond her imagination.
Farrow is ably supported by the wonderful Ruth Gordon as the sinisterly over-solicitous next door neighbour and John Cassavetes (who famously clashed with Polanski onset) as her devilishly handsome actor husband. But Farrow is the star, and the year IS 1966, so although we never get to lay eyes on the eponymous baby, our thoughts are never far from him, his deceived mother and, of course, the lurking presence of his father.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I just heard the lullaby theme in the title, I freaked out. That
theme alone was one of the freakiest thing I'd ever heard. Yet, I
didn't know what was to come; the la-la-la was just the starting of it.
I ended up watching the best horror film I'd ever seen in my life.
Before that, my fav horror film was "Jaws." No offense to Steven
Spielburg, but not even that could top this masterpiece.
I was already familiar with Roman Polanski's work before, so I knew what to expect. I was wrong about expecting a good movie. "Rosemary's Baby" is so much more than that. Polanski really made every scene right and good-paced so that we'd still be at the edge of our seats to the end.
Mia Farrow was the perfect actress for the film's brave and young-motherly protagonist. She kept Rosemary's emotions and thoughts right on her face so we know what she's thinking at all times and we can actually join her emotionally in her desperate fight to save her baby from the coven. No one else could have done so.
The ending is probably one of the best climax ever filmed in history, somewhere right below "Taxi Driver." I think they made a good choice not showing the baby. Rosemary's reaction alone was enough to show that something was wrong with it. Had they shown it, all our shock would have spilled out no matter how freaky it looked and the film's macabre-less suspense would have been ruined.
The shock still continues to the very end, when Rosemary decides to accept her Antichrist son. She wanted this baby her whole life and she's going to love it, even if it's the son of Satan. Everyone would gasp at this and think that surely she doesn't know what she's doing, but she does. And this makes the film's theme be not about religion or good and evil at all, but just that a true mother's love must reach beyond all obstacles, even a relation to evil itself.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(careful of them there spoilers!)
Rosemary's Baby is a standout in the genre of gothic psychological thrillers. Hitchcock's Rebecca is the only other film I know at the top of that category, and of all Horror films only a handful can compete with it for "best ever."
Polanski's direction is simply amazing. A good common description in a lot of these reviews would be "hallucinatory paranoia." The film creates a sense of dislocation, through the juxtaposition of occult imagery with a modern urban setting, and a subtle sense of building tension, through devices such as the deadline of the baby's expectancy date vs. the conspiracy being woven around Rosemary. These devices enhance her vulnerability and sympathetic quality, and make every hinted threat feel like a threat to you the viewer. This is a movie that you piece together with your mind but also experience with gut emotion.
What sets this film apart from standard crappy blood and guts horror, besides its subtlety, is its metaphoric themes. The "Faustian bargain" made by Rosemary's husband, to further his acting career by selling his fatherhood, reflects on the nature of acts of creation within the entertainment industry and traditional values within organized religion. I would go so far as to say that this film is intended to criticize bourgeois values within capitalism, through allegory (if I knew more about Polanski's films.)
Sometimes a film comes along that redeems the art form that is cinema. Rosemary's Baby is one of those films. In Rosemary's Baby the cinematic content is the priority, the auteur understands what is important is not the story as it is seen on paper, but the story as it is told visually. Polanski proves in this film that when he is on top there is none greater. Polanski takes a remote locale to create in a sense a claustrophobic atmosphere, and understands both cinematography and the audience so well that he uses a barrage of imagery to play the audience like a violin creating a response of pure terror. However, the amazing thing about this film is that it does even the little things so well. For example, this film contains the best dream sequences I've ever seen. True, Hitchcock created some of the most fascinating and artisitc dream sequences visually, but none of them came nearly as close to creating what the dream state is truly like. Many directors lack a sense of daring, they are so worried about appeasing the audience that they cease to challenge them. Polanski challenges the audience ten times a frame, he creates outrage by allowing chaos to reign, and displays complete disregard for structure/order as the primary priority. Polanski has always struck me as a balance between a director of the French New Wave style and a student of Hitchcock which supplies him with an amazing combination of freedom and precision. The performances in this film are outstanding all around. Polanski to me is one of the few directors who is completely fearless when it comes to taking risks. I don't believe I've ever seen another director who possesses and expresses such dual qualities so effortlessly. Polanski feels no obligation to tradition, but simultaneously has an enormous amount of respect for the masters who came before him. There is also a great balance between the fantastic and the realistic in this film, drawing a very thin line between both, and forcing the audience to question the fantastic realities and the realistic fantasies. They say that the great artists know the rules, but can get away with breaking them because they realize that it is something far beyond rules that makes their medium what it is, and I can think of few filmmaker's who exemplify this to same extent as Polanski.
Whenever I watch this movie, I nearly forget that this is a horror movie. It's because this is such a well-made movie...there is actually a story in this movie and it is told in a captivating way. Nonetheless, the director, Roman Polanski added just the right amount of suspense and shock to make this a definite horror film. He did not need to include any gory or intensely graphic scenes in this movie. Yet, the movie is scary enough. This movie stars the great Mia Farrow in an awesome, amazing performance. Angel-faced Mia, turns in a marvelous performance as the tragic heroine, Rosemary. It was quite a feat for Mia, who was only 22 years old when she made this movie. She's wonderful as the leading character in this movie, and her transformation in the movie from a doe-eyed beauty to a gaunt waif is startling. John Cassavetes also does a good job playing Rosemary's ambitious husband who's willing to sell his soul to achieve success. And, Ruth Gordon is superb as their eccentric, devil-worshipping older neighbor. You can't help but feel for poor Rosemary. She initially believes that those closest to her are people that she can trust. Little by little, she discovers that all those people are plotting against her, and that she's basically on her own. It's horrible to know that she's surrounded by all of those occult-practicing people, yet she can't really do anything about it...she can only accept it. One of the best things about this movie is the editing--I really liked the way that certain images were superimposed on some of the scenes. It was like seeing a collage come to life. The editing is especially noteworthy during the rape scene. The rape scene is outstanding, frightening, and spellbinding all at the same time. It's also worthy to point out that sometimes music can do a lot for a movie. If a movie is good, the right music can make the movie even better; it can set the appropriate mood for the movie. That's the case with this movie and it's theme song, "Lullaby". Overall, "Rosemary's Baby" is a terrific movie. One of the greatest horror movies ever made, and one of Roman Polanski's best movies. **** out of ****.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It doesn't suffice to call "Rosemary's Baby" a horror film; that
implies something corny. "Rosemary's Baby" is anything but corny. It is
actually creepy. The plot of course has weak-looking Rosemary Woodhouse
(Mia Farrow) getting pregnant and discovering that the father is Satan;
Rosemary's husband Guy (John Cassavetes) is colluding with
Satan-worshipping neighbors Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie Castevet
(Ruth Gordon) so that he can get a part in a play. This has the very
distinct Ira Levin feel in the way that "The Stepford Wives" and "The
Boys from Brazil" did: everything looks normal, but as the story
progresses, you begin to get the feeling that something's not right,
and then you find out the horrible truth.
Here's something that I noticed about the movie (maybe it was just a coincidence): the name Roman Castevet. The first name brings to mind director Roman Polanski, and the last name brings to my mind John Cassavetes. But like I said, that's probably just a pure coincidence. I think that my favorite scene is when Rosemary is playing with the Scrabble tiles and finds out about the connection with Adrian Marcato.
And one more thing. This might be the only thing in the whole movie that gives it a slightly non-horrific, even remotely silly flavor: the woman who played Elise Dunstan was Emmaline Henry, better known as Amanda Bellows on "I Dream of Jeannie". Ruth Gordon later co-starred with an "IDOJ" cast member in 1976's zany "The Big Bus" (which co-starred Larry Hagman). Well...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It was 1968. Director Roman Polanski made his American debut in cinema
with this film which would turn out to be his best and the most
frightening horror movie ever made. For Polanski, cynicism and a bleak
world view became a trademark. He had lost his parents in the horrors
of World War II concentration camps. His wife Sharon Tate, pregnant in
the summer of 1969 (exactly a year after this movie's release) was
brutally killed by the crazed Charles Manson cult. Prior to Rosemary's
Baby, Polanski had tackled horror films with "Repulsion" starring
Catherine Deneuve and the slightly more comedic "Fearless Vampire
Killers". So what makes Rosemary's Baby so frightening ? If you're a
Christian/Catholic the credibility of this film is extremely
disturbing, even blasphemous. The theme of the film is that evil wins
over good, that Satan triumphs with the birth of his Son, and that God
is dead. "Is God Dead ?" reads a headline in Time Magazine which
Rosemary picks up while waiting at the doctor's office. In the late
60's, with the Vietnam war beginning to rage, and with the outbreak of
violence and racial riots of the Civil Rights Movement and trouble at
home and abroad, (at home women were rebelling and becoming
independent, the pill was out, abortion was rampant) this film seems to
be a symbolic/horror manifestation of the time period. Nowadays, it
seems tame, and sure enough horror films influenced by this one would
emerge in the 70's- The Exorcist and The Omen Series.
This film put Mia Farrow on the map. As Rosemary, the heroine in Ira Levin's novel, she is vulnerable, headstrong and ultimately tragic. It is her maternal instincts that win out in the end. Rather than killing Satan's baby, she opts to "mother" it and let it live. This is in an ironic twist a way of saying women should always be the "mother" even in the worst case scenario. Remember Rosemary believes, even at the end, that her child is not that bad, that it has a human side and that it could be "saved". She rebels against her husband, cuts her hair very short, and wants to get her own doctor. Rosemary represents the modern woman of the late 60's, looking hopeful toward the future. The past, with its mystery, evil ignorance and darkness, is represented by the ambiguous characters of the next door neighbors Roman and Minnie (Ruth Gordon). Are they well-meaning neighbors or are they really Satanic worshipers ? So many nightmarish, surreal elements make us believe it's all some kind of drug-induced hallucination. Rosemary's dream, in which she is aboard a ship with the Presidential couple J.F.K. and Jackie, where a monstrous Devil appears to rape and impregnate her, is so frightening, so confusing, we don't know what's what. What exactly happened to Rosemary ? We could analyze the film for hours. The idea that this could be real is what makes this film, which is otherwise slow-paced, mannered, so frightening. Its horror lies in its psychology and philosophy. John Cassevetes is doing a terrific job as the selfish, materialistic and greedy actor who makes a deal with the Devil. Poor Rosemary. We believe her. We know she is trapped in the evil cult. It is the despair, the futility of escape that makes us most frightened and uneasy. For Polanski, this movie was his emergence into mainstream, American cinema, while at the same time an expression of his own torment.
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