Directed by: Roman Polanski
Cast: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon
My final review of the JUMPSCARECUT season is a film I’ve been dying to watch for a very long time and one of my biggest cinema sins. Another highly-regarded classic, Rosemary’s Baby is actually a film I knew very little about going in – which helped massively – although I had a distinctly bad feeling about this pregnancy.
The titular Rosemary and her hubby Guy Woodhouse find a lovely new home in the city, ignoring the warnings that the apartment building has a dark history (of course they do, it’s a horror film). Soon after moving in, their oddball elderly neighbours, Roman and Minnie Castevet, insert themselves into the Woodhouse’s lives and take a peculiar joy in learning Rosemary has fallen pregnant. Now, I’ve heard of “love thy neighbour” but these folks take it way too far, implementing a very hands-on approach to caring for the needs of Rosemary and her baby – you see where this is going, right?
In my previous review, I commented on the slow-burning horror of The Exorcist, but that is nothing compared to the way the unnerving tone of this film shifts from gear to gear. The narrative ticks along, creeping closer and closer to the inevitable, malevolent midnight hour, where everything we feared explodes and comes to a horrifying head. Huge credit must go to Mia Farrow for carrying this intensity and brooding terror on her delicate shoulders in what must have been a gruelling role to bring to life. We the audience empathise with Rosemary every step of the way; we see the nightmare unfold through her eyes, we feel the despair and helplessness in her bones.
It’s a horror which is masterfully brought to the screen by Roman Polanski, adapted faithfully from the novel by Ira Levin. The way Polanski frames his characters in their domestic settings, captures body language and facial expressions, and the dynamic chemistry he draws from the ensemble cast is just exquisitely done, and really drives home the notion that this is very much a horror on a human level, invading the sanctity of the home and torturing us out of our comfort zone.
I am so glad I’ve finally ticked this off my watchlist, and I urge anyone else who was waiting for the right time, to just sink into this devilishly dark tale as soon as they can. Rosemary’s Baby is not just a great horror film, it is a masterclass in the art of filmmaking, and a film which firmly stands the test of time fifty years after its release.