Rosemary’s Baby * * * * 1/2
Director: Roman Polanski.
Screenplay: Roman Polanski.
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Ralph Bellamy, Charles Grodin, Maurice Evans, Victoria Vetri, Patsy Kelly, Elisha Cook, Jr, Patricia O’Neal.
Psychological torture and terror have been a consistant theme throughout director Roman Polanski’s career but few, if any, have been executed as skillfully as this adaptation of Ira Levin’s bestselling novel.
Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) move into a new apartment with the hope of starting a family. Shortly after their arrival they meet their new neighbours, a very friendly elderly couple named Roman (Sidney Blackmer) and Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon). Not before long, odd things start to happen and Rosemary has strange dreams and hears strange noises while Guy becomes remote and distant and begins to spend a lot of time with the new neighbours. Then Rosemary falls pregnant and begins to suspect that her neighbours are involved in the occult and have something to do with her poor health and her unborn child.
As soon as the opening credits are rolling, Polanski already sets the eerie tone with simple use of a childlike lullaby and creepy music. He’s a masterful director who’s in complete control of his material and his use of surreal, dreamlike imagery coupled with muffled voices through the wall is horror genius and deeply unsettling. It’s a proficiently crafted horror with the story unravelling at it’s own pace, as Rosemary’s grip on reality and her sanity are in question. Polanski also keeps us guessing just like the conflicted protaganist, while cranking up the suspense and paranoia deliberately but assuredly, helped by excellent performances throughout, particularly Ruth Gordon (in an Oscar winning role) and Sidney Blackmer as the creepy interfering neighbours. What’s even more fascinating is the spooky coincidences that followed the film; Polanski’s pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered – a year after the film was made – in 1969 by Charles Manson and his followers, who titled their death spree “Helter Skelter” after the 1968 song by The Beatles and this bands prominent member John Lennon would later be murdered outside the very Manhattan apartment building where Rosemary’s Baby was filmed. The history and association of this film is a story in itself.
A restrained, deliberately paced and intelligent psychological horror of the finest kind. It doesn’t stoop to cheap shock tactics but simply chips away at the psyche of it’s character, not to mention ours aswell.