Rosemary’s Baby (11/2/12)

Rosemary's BabyMovie Two Hundred Forty Eight

When a young couple moves into a new apartment and gets pregnant, weird happenings cause the expecting mother to worry that something sinister is afoot in Rosemary’s Baby.

Guy (John Cassavetes) and Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) move into a large, gothic apartment after the previous owner passed away. They meet their neighbors, Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castavet (Sidney Blackmer), and the young woman staying with them named Terry (Victoria Vetri). After Terry is killed after jumping out a window and Guy and Rosemary decide to spend more time with their elderly neighbors. Guy immediately forms a strong bond with the couple despite Rosemary’s reluctance and when Rosemary becomes pregnant under strange circumstances, the Castavets take a strong role in the Woodhouses lives until eventually Rosemary suspects that there is much more going on to their story and suspects them of witchcraft.

Roman Polanski’s Hollywood debut, Rosemary’s Baby, is one of the most chilling stories put to film. There is a sense of dread from the very beginning, even if you know nothing of the story that *something* is going to happen. As small hints are dropped or strange things are happening, you start to wonder what exactly is going on and what is really happening with the Woodhouses and Castavets. When witchcraft and Satanism start coming up you almost don’t want to believe that it’s really happening; maybe Rosemary is just being delusional but you know that probably isn’t true.

The really haunting thing about Rosemary’s Baby, however, is that while everything happening seems a bit weird, it isn’t so weird that it would raise any red flags  in most of our lives, and that is what makes the tale so chilling. We can’t all go around assuming the worst of people or that their motives are probably evil. If we move into an apartment next door to an elderly couple we wouldn’t want to offend them. The progression of the plot is not at all far-fetched and even when Rosemary suspects witchcraft she is scoffed at. Even at its weirdest, Rosemary’s Baby is fairly grounded in realism which makes it all the more frightening.

I’ve long held an opinionated distinction between horror movies and terror movies, sometimes classified as psychological horror movies. Nowadays, horror films are filled with blood, guts, and gore – which is fine. I find movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, or The Shining to be more terror movies,where the reliance to chill is on mood rather than violence. The experience for watching these films is disquieting and difficult to shake even after the film is over. Rosemary’s Baby may not appeal to modern horror fans in the same way that it does to me, but I would rank it quite highly.

Criterion Collection recently released a new restored version of Rosemary’s Baby that gives Polanski’s film a fantastic presentation. The visuals and sound have likely never looked better, or at least not since it debuted on the big screen. The special features, which I didn’t fully dive into, include an interview with Polanski, Farrow, and producer Robert Evans on the film. As far as Criterions go, this is a brilliant set for a fantastic film.

Rosemary’s Baby doesn’t get the attention I feel it deserves, even when discussing classic horror films. There are few films that give the same sense of dread so well. Though I just missed watching it in time for Halloween, be sure that Rosemary’s Baby will make a solid place in my annual film rotation come Halloween season.

I give it 5 tannis root necklaces out of 5.


Rotten Tomatoes


45 responses to “Rosemary’s Baby (11/2/12)

  1. good write up! I agree with your distinction as well. good point. thanks for the review. RB is one movie that I hold in high regard and watch a couple times a year.

  2. I’ll be watching this soon enough as well since I bought the Criterion Blu-Ray during the B&N sale. Unfortunately I bought a lot of movies from the sale and want to get through them all! Wonderful to hear it Rosemary’s Baby is the horror classic I’ve heard it is.

  3. I’ve always preferred psychological horror movies over the likes of the slasher genre. Rosemary’s Baby is one of those films where you want to yell at the screen to tell Rosemary to get her ass outta that apartment.

  4. One my favourites. I love that Roman Polanski did not realize that he could deviate from Ira Levin’s book. Levin recalled that Roman was following his book so closely that he rang him to ask which page of the New York Times had the advertisement for the shirt that Guy sees in the paper. Levin had to tell Roman that he’d made the advert up! Brilliant film and so close to the book (obviously). Great review. 😀

  5. One of the things that I have always like about this movie is that it really hinges on paranoia. We all feel it and it is like you said, it is usually small stuff that doesn’t raise any red flags. That allows us to get into the movie because we think of times we shrug off small stuff but wonder if it could be a sign of something worse to come. Nice write up!

  6. Nice review Andy. I watched it for the first time not too long ago and thought it was fantastic. I just loved how pretty much everything is up for interpretation. If you wanted to, you could argue that whilst there is clearly some plot going on, whether actual witchcraft has taken place is up for discussion, especially as you don’t ever see the baby.

  7. Good review Andy. This one totally took me by surprise because I was expecting to just have and deal with a bunch of demons popping out of nowhere for 2 hours straight, but that’s the exact difference of what I got. It’s all about building up it’s tension and mysterious atmosphere, that has you guessing until the last-shot. And what a last-shot it is!

  8. I have seen this!!! Yay!! (Sorry, all night I’ve been commenting on things I HAVEN’T seen). I wasn’t a huge fan but I should probably revisit it because I was only 19 when I saw it.

  9. You’re right, this is a chilling film. A while back (although I’ve still not cracked them open!) I bought a three pack of Ira Levin books and this one was in it. I’m interested to see what it’s like in lit form. Did you know he’s also responsible for ‘The Stepford Wives’ and ‘A Kiss Before Dying’?

    Great post. Taking about Ruth Gordon, have you seen ‘Harold and Maude’? A great cult classic to add to your list if you haven’t. 🙂

  10. Just watched this movie. The actual happenings associated are just as disturbing. I wrote about them in my review’s postscript: “Here’s a gruesomely bizarre yet strangely intriguing ring of coincidences.  The exterior apartment shots in Rosemary’s Baby were filmed at the Dakota in Manhattan, New York.  12 years later, John Lennon was murdered at the Dakota.  Lennon co-wrote the song “Helter Skelter”, a heavy influence of the psychopathic beliefs of serial killer Charles Manson.  Manson murdered Sharon Tate, Polanski’s wife, in 1969.  Tate was pregnant at the time of her death, due only two weeks later.  Shudder.”

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