Sooooo yeah despite claiming to be way into horror, I have never actually seen Rosemary’s Baby. What makes that even worse is that I have owned it for quite a while now. I’ve owned it long enough that originally it was supposed to be a part of last year’s marathon but got bumped to this year where it once again almost didn’t make it. I blame the length. I’m not used to horror movies being 135 minutes long and I think that scared me. Finally it was time to sit down and check this one and god damn I am an idiot for not watching this one sooner.
Mia Farrow is Rosemary and John Cassavetes (holy shit I just made the connection that the lead couple in Annabelle were named Mia and John, I think that makes me like that movie a little bit less) is her husband Guy. They move to a new apartment where they quickly befriend the elderly couple who live in the same building. It quickly becomes apparent that there is something off about these two. They are too friendly and far too pushy, even for an elderly couple. Things take an even stranger turn when a woman in the building commits suicide with depression blamed as the cause, despite Rosemary having met her and being told how happy she was. Shit ain’t right and that’s all I will say about it from here.
I am largely unfamiliar with the works of Mia Farrow but holy hell is she ever fantastic here. It’s a tremendous performance and requires a full transformation, both physically and mentally. Rosemary starts out as a sweet and optimistic woman who we then watch become increasingly more paranoid and frazzled until eventually she is a complete wreck, a shell of her former self. Farrow makes the transition seamlessly and never goes over the top, always remaining entirely sympathetic. You even believe this woman would love Guy, who for all intents and purposes seems to be a huge, neglectful, borderline rapist asshole.
Rosemary’s Baby is a master class in suspense. The majority of thrillers aren’t able to sustain a solid level of suspense for a full scene; this one manages to keep it up for over two hours. Even simple dinner conversations have an underlying tone of malice and every character, no matter how outwardly friendly they may appear, feels like they may be up to something. Along with Rosemary, you’re never quite sure who you can trust and what people’s true motivations are and it makes for some truly effective terror. It’s not about jump scares or gore, just good old fashioned suspense. The final third of the movie then ratchets up the tension to an almost unbearable level. It’s a movie that’s not afraid to take it’s time but you’ll be far, FAR, from bored.
In general the movie holds up remarkably well but there are a few things that date it. There’s small touches like Rosemary’s make-up in the latter half of the movie being far too blatant but that’s less the fault of the movie and more the amazing transfer job of the Criterion blu ray. They didn’t count on us watching the movie with this much clarity (it’s the same reason you can now see naked boobs in many of the James Bond openings) so that’s fine. The main thing that stuck out, especially for my wife, is that Rosemary is an overly complacent wife. Perhaps it’s the character, maybe it is indeed the time period, but it can be a tad jarring. Yes for a lot of it we are supposed to think he is in fact being a dick but there is one particularly heinous thing he does that is treated as more of a sitcom style husband screw-up than the truly fucked up act it really is. It’s nothing that takes away from the movie but it certainly stands-out all these years later.
I do feel the movie could also use a touch more ambiguity in the end. You think perhaps they are going to leave a few things open ended and have some room for interpretation but noooope. Everything is completely and thoroughly explained so that by the end there is absolutely no doubt as to exactly what is taking place. I still loved the ending, but at times the amount of exposition was a bit much, though I’m glad they still left at least a few specific details up to the viewer’s imagination.
I don’t think I’ll be blowing anybody’s minds when I saw that Rosemary’s Baby is a fantastic movie. You all already knew that, it’s me who is finally playing catch up on this one. Don’t make the same mistake I did, you watch this movie immediately. Immediately!