Rosemary's Baby

Dir: Roman Polanski
Star: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer

Interesting to watch this on the same day as the Evil Dead and realize that the one made almost 50 years earlier, is still the better horror movie. It's a completely different animal, of course: very little in the way of explicit gore or even violence, relying more on a sense of creeping paranoia and growing dread. But that main reason for its success, is that you actually care about the central character and her fare, rather than her being just a slab of meat getting fed into a grinder. Rosemary (Farrow) and her husband Guy (Cassevetes) move into a new apartment in New York, and everything initially seems idyllic, especially when Rosemary becomes pregnant, albeit after what would not be called "date rape" at the very least. Sure, there's issues - a girl Rosemary meets flings herself out a window shortly afterward, and their neighbours Minnie and Roman (Gordon and Blackmer) are a little too friendly - but it's not like the couple haved moved in to the middle of a cult of Satanists, now, is it? Oh, wait... Hmm, maybe that nightmare about being impregnated by the Devil wasn't just the product of a fevered imagination.

There are unquestionably elements of this that are badly-dated, not least the fashions - whoever dressed Farrow should be taken out and shot, even by the low standards of the sixties, and the cringe-inducing product placement for Vidal Sassoon's hair-styles is painfully amateurish. There's also a laughable angle where Rosemary is clued in to Roman's evil nature by the fact he has... pierced ears!!! Clearly the mark of someone through whom evil runs like mother's milk. Such silly changes in society are hardly the makers' fault, however, and the film does a beautiful job of treading the line between threat and danger. By which I mean, there's never anything quite sufficient to justify her running screaming from the premises, until it's too late: only when you start to put the pieces together does the threat become clear, and that could just be preggie paranoia. Admittedly, it does topple over into cliché at the end; however, it has still aged remarkably well, and I dread the day the inevitable remake comes out, crapping the bed. Because there's precious little here (in cinematic terms at least) that is in need of improvement.

[July 2013]

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