Director – Roman Polanski
Cast – Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, Victoria Vetri, Patsy Kelly, Elisha Cook Jr., Emmaline Henry, Charles Grodin, Hanna Landy, Phil Leeds
Release Year – 1968
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Listed on pretty much every major critic’s list of greatest horror movies of all time, Rosemary’s Baby needs no formal introduction, despite this being one of the lesser-known of horror’s greatest films. The second installment of his loose “Apartment” trilogy preceded by Repulsion and followed by The Tenant, Rosemary’s Baby delivers a truly horrific experience that is sure to please fans of satanic horror, as well as psychological horror. With Roman Polanski’s superb direction complimented by his brilliant adaptation of Ira Levin’s novel, he solidified this film as one of horror’s greatest of all time.
Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes star as Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, a young couple who relocate to an eloquent apartment in a building with an unfavorable reputation. They immediately make nice with their elderly neighbors Roman and Minnie Castevet, who despite their seemingly good intentions give off an uneasy feeling to Rosemary. When Rosemary becomes pregnant all of those around her offer their sincere wishes, but when strange occurrences begin unfolding around her she begins an investigation that leads her to suspect that her neighbors belong to a coven of witches that seeks her child. With Guy adamant that their neighbors are only trying to help her with her pregnancy, Rosemary is left with no one to turn to, which leads her down a dark and unstable path to a shocking conclusion.
Few films are able to accomplish truly unsettling horror in a slow-moving experience, but Rosemary’s Baby succeeds at doing what few films do thanks to faithful(to the novel) screenplay and Polanski’s fantastic direction.
I have always had a love for satanic horror films, so the plot had me engaged from the get-go, and the constant developments, albeit slow-building, aided the film in keeping positive pacing for its 136 minute runtime. Most horror films that I encounter that carry a 120 minute-plus runtime come with awkward pacing due to needless scenes, and while Rosemary’s Baby could have been trimmed down 15 minutes or so, Polanski threw in enough engaging scenes at just the right time to negate the film’s slower scenes. Watching Rosemary’s seemingly simple and perfect life slowly succumb to her doubts and suspicions was incredibly captivating, especially when you consider how justifiable and plausible her suspicions were. I loved each of the revelations involving the coven, and instead of getting the usual cliché element of the husband not believing the wife we were given a unique take on that by Rosemary believing that he is part of the coven, especially when you consider that it was he who wanted to have a child. The bulk of the film focuses on Rosemary’s investigative descent into paranoia, which came with a highly satisfying climax consisting horror of great magnitude.
As I mentioned earlier, Polanski’s direction is fantastic, and he perfectly executes every element of the film. Fantastic performances from each of the main actors involved helped sell the film in multiple ways, with Mia convincing you of the horror she is experiencing, as well as convincingly polite yet uneasy performances from all of those she suspects to be witches, which I found essential to providing the tension and conflict the film aims to deliver. He employs an amazing set to serve as the apartment Rosemary and Guy are residing in, which comes aided by fantastic cinematography and lighting, providing the perfect elegant yet uneasy mood mirroring the film’s story. It takes good execution for a 120 minute-plus film to keep the viewer engaged, and Polanski was superb in keeping things interesting even during the film’s quieter scenes thanks to each of the elements previously mentioned.
Overall, Rosemary’s Baby is one of horror’s greatest experiences of all time thanks to its harrowing story and superb direction from Roman Polanski. The film takes its time, but in the end we are left with a truly haunting experience sure to please all horror fans, especially those with a love for satanic or psychological horror.