Before Roman Polanski was known for hiding out in Switzerland to avoid being arrested, he was famous for making some really great films, including Chinatown, MacBeth, and The Pianist. His films are stylistic and fresh, and he is considered to be one of the modern world’s best directors.
But on this week’s Manic Movie Magic, we’re going to be looking at Polanski’s Satan-is-my-baby’s-daddy film, Rosemary’s Baby
Released in 1968, Rosemary’s Baby starts off with our titular character played by Mia Farrow, and her aspiring-actor husband named Guy, played by John Cassavetes, moving into a rather swanky New York City apartment. All seems to be going along well – the neighbors are friendly, the apartment is lovely and spacious, and wouldn’t you know it, Guy gets a call to star in the lead role of a play because the first guy mysteriously went blind. If that last part didn’t set off any alarms, then people must really have unfortunate accidents around you a lot.
In celebration of Guy’s new role, one of the neighbors comes over with celebratory mousse! After complaining that hers tastes chalky, Rosemary faints. That’s right, they roofied the woman’s mousse. Kudos for ingenuity, but I think that’s just plain cruel. Couldn’t you give her some water, or slipped it into a burger or something? If you can’t trust confectionaries, what can you believe in?
So after passing out due to the tainted-treat, Rosemary finds herself in a rather disturbing position: surrounded by darkness and old, naked people. However, she is still heavily sedated, and cannot make her escape. And then, you guessed it, Satan appears, he rapes and impregnates her, and she wakes up in her bed feeling worse for wear but thinking it was all a dream.
Guy tell hers, get this, that he had sex with her while she was asleep because he didn’t want to pass up the moment to impregnate her. That ALONE should have set off warning bells for anyone who’s sane but Rosemary accepts it readily and soon finds out she’s pregnant.
As the pregnancy progresses, Rosemary goes through physical Hell – loses weight, feels continuous pain, and eats lots of raw meat. Her neighbors begin giving her herbs and remedies, sending her to a friend of theirs who’s a gynecologist, who doesn’t seem to try and help her in any way. An old friend of Rosemary’s named Hutch becomes suspicious of what’s going on and decides to investigate her neighbors.
To wrap this up (it’s a long film, but worth the watch) Hutch mysteriously falls into a coma and dies, and Rosemary realizes something is very wrong, and tries to get help. Unfortunately she’s seen as hysterical and is shooed away as some silly woman. She is taken back to the apartment where she gives birth to the baby, but is later told it died. We later hearing crying from another apartment, and Rosemary knows it’s alive.
However, this is the part where the film takes a turn for the worse. Rosemary enters through the secret closet entryway into the room where her demon spawn is being held. The coven explains to her that yes, her son is the antichrist, and she was the chosen vessel all along to bring the end of the world, all while people are screaming “Hail Satan!” The final straw is when they urge to mother the baby anyways…which she accepts….for some reason…
That’s the problem with bad endings – the tension built up in the first two acts was so great, it only makes the letdown of the ending seem even greater. I’m not sure if there was a rewrite, or if maybe this really was the ending Polanski intended for the film, but it’s certainly anticlimactic. I’m not even sure what I was expecting to happen, but it seemed all so out of place and silly that I couldn’t get into it at all. It’s not necessarily a terrible ending, but it’s certainly weaker than the rest of the film
This movie looks very creepy and mysterious, with some great shots, as well as the infamous Satan-rape scene, which remains one of the scariest scenes in all horror movie history. The cinematography is well done, making a stark contrast between the city of bright lights with outdoors shots, and the increasingly gloomy and ominous apartment. It, of course, looks dated by modern day standards but the 1960s feel also adds a layer of unassuming beauty to the film (this may also be the most pretentious sounding sentence I have ever written).
Rosemary’s Baby may not be a perfect film but it certainly know how to do its job – it creates a horrifying scenario, builds tension slowly by effectively, and makes the audience emotionally invested in the characters. From a modern day perspective, it’s not very scary in the clutch-a-stuffed-animal-to-shield-your-eyes sense, but it is very realistically creepy, so keep that in mind while watching it. If you like classic horror movies, be sure to give this one a watch this Halloween!
Tune in next week, when I review Stanley Kubrick’s most beloved horror-thriller The Shining.