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Rosemary's Baby is perhaps the least violent 'horror' film I have ever
This is my first Roman Polanski film, and he does an amazing job. His screenplay is smart in really absorbing us into these characters' lives. The first half of the film can be seen as just a regular domestic drama in a way. He creatively directs the film so that by the time the climax comes it's just utterly fantastic. I won't say that the film was unpredictable though, partly in turns because whenever one sees a 'satan' film we hear about Rosemary's Baby. It's sort of like Psycho's big twist. It has had such a large legacy that it's shocking if you don't know what the film is really about.
Saying that however, this is a meticulously detailed drama-turned mystery- turned thriller- turned horror film. It's also quite fascinating how little I got based on actual physical horror. I thought Mia Farrow was fantastic in this.
Rosemary's Baby is one of the greatest horror film of that times. It was made 43 years ago, however it is rather fantastic. Rosemary and her husband Guy Woodhouse move to an apartment. They meet their elderly neighbors named Roman and Minnie Castevet who are very friendly to them. Although their friendly behaviors, Rosemary feels something strange about them. On the contrary, her husband begins to be very close to them. Rosemary and her husband wants to have a baby, and the night that they decided to have a baby, Minnie comes and brings them a desert to eat. At first Rosemary hesitates to eat it but her husband insists on her to eat. After eating that, she feels dizzy and she thinks that she sees a nightmare but she really lives it. That part of the film is really thrilling, complex and disturbing to me. While watching the scene, i felt so nervous and disgusted. Rosemary becomes pregnant but something starts going wrong. She begins to lose weight and suffer from terrible pains. She begins to complain about her pains but her husband and neighbors don't care about her discomfort. Nobody attempts to help her, even her friends, and her doctor... When she understands that all of them are witches, she wants to run away but because of her baby, firstly she has to go to her doctor and she tells the doctor that her husband and neighbors are witches and they want to harm her baby. But the doctor give her to them. They take her to home, she try to escape again but she can't escape and gives a birth. At the and of the film, we understand that she gives birth to a satanist baby. And she can do nothing in the face of such a situation. I think this is a disappointing ending. But this is not important because the film is absolutely gripping.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roman Polanski's 1968 classic 'Rosemary's Baby' deals with a subject
matter that's first class horror material; the birth of Antichrist. Set
in mid 60ties New York we meet the married couple of housewife Rosemary
(Mia Farrow) and struggling actor Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes).
Moving into their new apartment they befriend the old neighbor couple
of Minnie and Roman Castavet, who Guy becomes unusually close to. Guy
soon lands a major role and starts heading for success, and with this
he decides to stop his self-centered behavior and focus on his wife and
so they decide to have a baby. Becoming ill the same night, Rosemary
encounters a terrible dream the night of the intercourse with
spiritualistic and mythological aspects, which is the start of a slowly
spiraling pregnancy towards darkness.
Polanski created a shocking film when it was released in 1968. It's thematic content is frightening and obnoxious, and it certainly lead the way for William Friedkin's 1973 'The Exorcist'. Mia Farrow's performance is her best, it's a harsh performance that shows her sickening mind and body afraid of what she's facing; Cassavetes (who was the symbol of cool and daring independent movie-making as a director in the 60ties and 70ties) pulls out a strange but interesting performance, at further viewings it may you might feel that Guy knows what's going on from the very first second, but then again, he pulls out this lovable husband that shows genuine interest in her well-being. And for me, the film is mostly engaging as an interior study of marriage facing unsureness and scare, with the pure horror elements of the plot coming second rate when it comes down at the end. It's more a drama film with a dark underbelly (with certainly interesting revelatory aspects), than a full-on shocking horror film about the birth of Antichrist. Cause like in 'The Exorcist', you have a demon-possessed little girl with a transformed, monstrous face who's vomiting, spitting, squirming, attacking and shouting crude one-liners; in 'Rosemary's Baby' we're given an intensity surrounding "what's going on with this bright young lady?" - and the horror comes in her grueling sickening, her more and more dominant paranoia, her husband's mysterious behavior, the old couple's weird behavior, and all the subtle clues given throughout. 'Rosemary's Baby' was a daring film back then, and its own "under-performance" of the plot grows more and more in mind afterward.
THIS is the movie that made it possible to get films like THE EXORCIST
and THE OMEN green-lighted. You have to be of a certain age to
remember, let alone appreciate this one, because too many of "today's
generation" of horror film lovers have been spoon-fed so much absolute
crap, they won't watch anything that doesn't have limbs and
blood-filled condom squibs flying everywhere. Too bad. ROSEMARY'S BABY,
though somewhat dated, is still a classic case of big-city paranoia
It was William Castle who optioned Ira Levin's chart-burning bestseller, but Paramount had absolutely no confidence in his directorial abilities by this time, so the job of adaptation and direction was handed off to red-hot auteur Roman Polanski, (who - considering the tragic events that tore apart his life - was perfect for the job,) leaving Castle to produce. In hindsight, it was probably a really good idea, since the story is rooted firmly in those crazy themes that are Polanski's bread and butter - urban angst, isolation, and fear of the unknown...more the kind of unknown about your other half, your neighbors and especially yourself.
Mia Farrow (whose career was practically made by this movie) and critically-acclaimed actor/filmmaker John Cassavettes were perfectly cast as Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, blushingly naive newlyweds who move into a huge brownstone in Manhattan as Guy's acting career is just starting to take off. (The infamously famous Dakota - yes, THAT one - stars as their new digs.) It's big, it's dark and it's tremendously creepy in a way that undoubtedly inspired a lot of movies after it - think a much older version of Sigourney Weaver's poltergeist-infested penthouse in GHOSTBUSTERS. In other words: the perfect place to find some supernatural mischief going on.
Which is not what Guy and Rosemary find...well, not at first. The most they discover is that they have a pair of unbelievably friendly - and nosy - neighbors, an older couple named Roman and Minnie Castevet (Sidney Blackmer, and in her Oscar-winning turn, the late, great Ruth Gordon.) The Castevets are just a little too interested in Guy and Rosemary's personal life, their day-to-day comings and goings, and the fact that the younger couple is very determined in adding a third member of the family very soon.
Remember how your mother told you never to talk to strangers? Let me add a new rule: never accept suspicious gifts or food products from the kindly little old lady next door. Besides that, there's all kinds of strange noises and general weirdness going on, conveniently when Rosie's at home by herself and Guy's out working.
The important thing to pay attention to is how Rosemary's freaked-out state of mind, combined with the creepy influence of the brownstone, plays an important part in the goings-on around her. Especially when people start dying - from the nice girl from across the hall she meets who "commits suicide", to the sudden illness and demise of family friend, Hutch (Maurice Evans). Oh, and to top it all off is one of the most chilling sequences in horror, when she does get pregnant...but there's a really good chance that Guy's not the daddy. (I don't think I have to go into a lot of details - you get the picture.)
Okay, so basically, the clothes, the surroundings, the pop-culture references are "ancient" enough to leave most newbies scratching their heads. Pay no attention to that stuff, my dears. Just let yourself soak up the atmosphere of menace and dread so superbly provided by Polanski, production designer Richard Sylbert and DP Bill Fraker (not to mention the spine-freezing score by Polish composer Krzystof Komeda). And enjoy the great performances by the leads and all the supporting cast, but especially Ms. Gordon. You'll never think of "Noo-Yawk" grand-bubbie types the same way again.
As far as recommendations go, this is NOT a rental. If you're a true horror fan, you should already have this as an essential part of your library, in the "Satanic Specialties" section.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
His criminal record aside, it is obvious that Roman Polanski is a
genius director. His ability to set up shots with a specific tone that
grows evenly as the film proceeds is extraordinary. That is what makes
this film work.
"Rosemary's Baby" is a slow burn thriller, one that starts innocently enough, but not exaggerated to the point where it's obvious that the character's lives are about to take a turn for the worse, but ever so gradually the gears start turning and the unsettling feeling starts to build. Polanski is no fool; he doesn't try to create two hours of terror (much like Hollywood does, but can't seem to understand that it has no idea what it's doing), he knows that Levin's story isn't like that. This decision saves the film from obvious doom. Actually, he constructs this film so well, that for a good portion of the film it's hard to believe that this is going to develop into a horror film.
Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy (John Cassevetes) Woodhouse are a young married couple who are going to move into a new apartment. The one they pick is located next to the Castevets, a seemingly pleasant elderly couple. Guy takes an instant liking to the Castavets, but Rosemary finds them to be rather nosy, Minnie (Ruth Gordon) in particular. However, shortly after Rosemary gets pregnant, strange things start to happen.
The key to the success of any movie is its credibility (I use the word "credible" with the knowledge that some movies, such as Lord of the Rings, have no use for believability. The audience only has to buy them within its own context). Polanski understands this, and the way he chooses to develop this is not only effective, but completely original. Bad things start to happen when Rosemary takes the advice of the Castevets, if only out of politeness. For example, when Minnie asks her what doctor she is seeing, Minnie insists that she see a different one, one that she trusts. Rosemary is already comfortable with her own doctor, but being polite she takes Minnie's advice (I suppose it helps that the doctor Minnie suggests has a good reputation too, which, in the hands of Polanski and his excellent actors, enhances the credibility instead of making it overkill).
The performances are excellent. Mia Farrow and John Cassevetes make a great couple with tremendous chemistry. It's easy to believe that they are a loving husband and wife. The other two principal characters, Minnie and Roman (Sidney Blackmer) are perfect equals to the Woodhouses. They don't develop the Castavets as characters, instead they act like a real elderly retired couple. Ruth Gordon is especially good at this, but perhaps that's because she has a good deal more screen time than her on screen husband. Everyone can see a lot of an elderly retired woman with a lot of time on her hands. Someone who loves to socialize, and is helpful to the point where it is a turnoff to others (though she doesn't realize it). This level of credibility can only come from a talented director and a terrific cast of actors who really care about the project they are working on.
I guess for some people, adding the element of "is she crazy or is this for real" gives a film another level of complexity, and heightens the level of fear. Maybe its because I've seen a number of films like this recently (the beginning of "The Descent" being one of them), or maybe it's just a personal preference, but I find that being able to put a face on my fear more refreshing (provided it's done well). Nevertheless, this uncertainty is conveyed perfectly, as I can say with absolute truthfulness that until the time that Polanski intended for the truth to come out, I had no idea if Rosemary was crazy or not.
Kudos to Polanski for being able to hold everything together for the whole film, at least until the final shot (warning: MAJOR SPOILER ahead). When Rosemary was pressured by Roman Castavet to be a mother to her child (being the newly spawn of Satan), I didn't buy her giving in. Her erratic fear that made up the majority of the film was too potent for that kind of an about face.
Still, this is a good little chiller. Not too frightening or disturbing, and except for the aftermath of a "suicide", there's no real violence or gore to speak of. It's the mark of a superb chiller, one that doesn't use violence and gore to make up for it's lack of ideas and skill.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was too young to see this movie when it was first shown, and I was
not impressed when I finally saw it after a few years had gone by. But
having seen it four or five times now, I actually believe it improves
with age. It is subtle and low key, and quite slow paced by today's
standards. There is far more genuinely horrifying action in Polanski's
other Sixties classic Repulsion, which leads me to believe that
Rosemary's Baby may actually be viewed better as a black comedy than a
true horror film. Many viewers have commented on the light hearted
opening, that seems almost like a typical Sixties romantic comedy. The
gradual darkening of the story is so subtly done that it's almost
imperceptible. A vague feeling of unease, with little in the way of
overt violence or horror, starts to permeate the film. There is enough
ambiguity in the way events unfold that it's possible to see Rosemary
as becoming disconnected from reality and imagining a plot against her.
The eccentric neighbors may be no more than a nosy but well meaning old
couple, her husband's unexpected success due to the accidental
misfortune of a competitor for an important part, the tragic death of a
young woman a genuine suicide. Is there any actual proof that these
things are more than mere coincidences? Mia Farrow's brilliant
performance makes us experience these doubts and fears along with her.
The film is very much a product of its time, the late Sixties. It touched on many ideas and events of a world increasingly chaotic and tumultuous, in ways that audiences born since that era could not relate to without direct experience. It was made at a time in which the Vietnam war was starting to become more controversial, the sexual revolution had begun, but the women's movement and legalized abortion were still in the future, along with anti-war riots and the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. It occupies a place in history as a sort of time capsule of the era, just as momentous and overwhelming changes were in the offing. The " God is dead" controversy that forms much of the background of the story must seem almost quaint to viewers today, but was a major aspect of the film's controversy.
Viewers expecting a shocking and horrific experience will probably be disappointed, but those who can appreciate a slow building, quietly unnerving film will find much to enjoy here. Much is left to the imagination, and it requires active involvement on the viewer's part. It may require patience for those accustomed to more visceral and fast paced movies, but it is well worth taking the time to appreciate.
Movies were constantly raising the bar for shocking in the late Sixties but few succeeded like this one. It was one of the last films officially 'Condemned' by the Catholic Legion of Decency. The dream sequences were easily the best of their time and continue to hold up well. Polanski's delight in the medium is palpable throughout but it never distracts from the narrative. The movie's texture --sophisticated Manhattan, but attainable-- resonates beautifully in the Christmas season scenes and later, when the temperature rises and Rosemary fumbles in a public phone booth. Note the gay friends at Ro and Guy's party. All the actors are in top form. Mia Farrow, lovely and vulnerable but crucially believable. Cassavettes as an ambitious actor, young but his biological clock is ticking. Did the Catholic Church get it right? This exemplifies the subversive power of cinema.
A great film that personifies the totally and wild experimentation of
the late 60's via Roman Polanksi-(that would be tame today nearly 40
years later) Which is nonetheless timeless, with great performances by
all -Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon and Sydney Blackmer.
It rates with other tripped out films of the late 60's- rating with such as 2001: A Space Oydessy.
Done very well filmed at the Dakota apartments in NYC and with a great late 1960's attitude, that today nearly 40 years later remains a classic Gothic horror story. One on the greatest horror films ever done, that us done with a great amount of aplomb.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I don't care how "scary" and "exiting" and "heart-pounding" movies are
today: This is by far the scariest! Rosemary's baby is about a couple
that buys a house with a mysterious past. After becoming pregnant,
Rosemary (Mia Farrow) begins to suspect that everybody in the building,
including her husband (John Cassavetes), is a Satan-worshiping,
anti-Christian witch. Is she imagining it, or is it real? And if it is,
will she be able to save her baby? The movie does start out slow, and
doesn't really pick up until she becomes pregnant. Also, some of it is
boring, and not all is very scary. But the parts that are: *shiver*!
Roman Polanski is a good director of horror. I did not think much of
the ending was good, but my favorite line is when Minnie Castavet(Ruth
Gordon) remarks: "He chose you, honey! From all the women in the world
to be the mother of his only living son!" Obviously playing on the
Jesus story, Minnie says this in her strong, New York accent, making
the situation almost comical.
All in all, a very creepy movie!
I have never been frightened by gore but can be made to jump by
something as simple as a door banging (The Others and The Bone
Collector for example). The mind can conjure up images which are far
more frightening that anything ever seen on film and if the mind is
nudged along a certain path and given suggestions then it is more than
capable in filling in the gaps and creating dark and scary landscapes
to get lost in.
This film slowly peals away layers of normality so that it is all too easy to accept what is portrayed (or rather for most of the time hinted at) and as the layers are pealed away so more and more suspense is loaded upon the viewer.
It is an extremely well crafted film (in every area: the script, the direction, the cinema photography, the acting and the music score) and personally one of my favourites and in my opinion certainly one of the best of its kind. It shows that sometime more (a lot more) can be achieved by leaving things out rather than putting them in and those directors who carry on insisting to load their films with tomatoes ketchup would do well to sit down and really study this film.
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