Rosemary's Baby (1968)

Well, here we are. It took us a little while, but we finally got around to covering what a lot of people call THE best horror movie ever made. Rosemary’s Baby. Spoiler alert: this is a good movie. There’s a decent amount of troubling Roman Polanski stuff to get around, but we’re here to do our best to look at the movie as a discrete work. Does it hold up, or is the hallowed opinion the result of looking backward with rose-tinted goggles? We’ll get to the bottom of all of that. Together. Just continue on down to check out the trailer and then find out. But be warned. Spoilers abound.

Reviewed by: Jack


 
 

Plot Synopsis

Rosemary (Mia Farrow) is a young woman moving into a new apartment with her struggling actor husband Guy (John Cassavetes). Luckily for Rosemary (maybe?) the new neighbors have just had an adoptive daughter kill herself and are ripe for some younger companionship. Things seem great for a time.

 
What, my hat? No, this is totally normal. Everyone over 35 wears this. You’ll see.

What, my hat? No, this is totally normal. Everyone over 35 wears this. You’ll see.

 

Well, it turns out that not all goes according to plan for poor Rosemary. After a sort-of romantic night, Rosemary falls asleep after imbibing too much wine and unknown mousse-sedatives. She has a dream about being raped, and wakes up to find scratches all over her arms. Don’t worry though, her husband tells her that he just went ahead and did the deed anyway, apparently because he couldn’t wait a few hours to start making a family.

 
Look at my jaw line and how I’m a man in the 60’s. This is probably fine.

Look at my jaw line and how I’m a man in the 60’s. This is probably fine.

 

Turns out things aren’t so fine. Stuff gets progressively worse and worse for Rosemary. Though she did end up pregnant, her doctor tells her not to talk to anyone else, her neighbors are being weirdly controlling, and Guy is getting more and more distant. With Rosemary’s paranoia mounting, it turns out it’s becoming more and more justified. It turns out that her husband sold her out to give birth to Satan’s child in exchange for him being a mildly more successful actor. Rosemary gives birth, and eventually succumbs to the charms of the demon child.


What the Movie Does Right

This movie is engrossing as hell. It’s even more impressive given how long the thing is. Most of that has to be the acting. Mia Farrow is magnetic, and everyone else is serviceable at worst. This is a movie that puts you in the shoes of a person who expends their resources and has nowhere else to go. As Rosemary’s options get fewer and fewer, you start to feel more and more choked. I also appear to be in the minority on this, but I feel the turn is pretty well hidden for a first time viewer. I think the film does a great job of selling the early parts of the weirdness as an asshole husband and legitimately nosy neighbors. But then when you see what’s happening, you look backwards and everything starts to click.

What the Movie Does Wrong

Look, the Roman Polanski thing is rough. There’s no way around that. Fuck that guy. And his horseshit extended to apparently tormenting Mia Farrow to get the kind of performance he thought was necessary. Good performance or not, that stuff sucks. Also, the movie is long. Very long. It’s a hard sell to sit down for a movie that significantly over 2 hours. I do think that the movie makes good use of the time to build characters and suspense, but there’s plenty of scenes that could be trimmed or cut outright.


Ratings (1-10)

Story: 7 - This is a really clean story. A relatable premise that blends legitimate paranoia with legitimate isolation. There isn’t a lot here to muddy up the waters and the movie benefits from it.

World-Building / Immersion: 8 - Again, for how long the movie is, its astonishingly engrossing. I think it’s mostly the performances, but this movie will suck you in from the start and it doesn’t let go.

Scare Factor: 8 - This is one of the scarier movies you could watch. It doesn’t do a whole lot more than raw psychological horror, but it does that in spades. This movie cuts off resources in a way that not a lot of films do.

Effects (or Judicious Lack Thereof): 5 - This one’s kind of right down the middle. There’s a little practical that looks very good. There’s some overlayed digital effects that, while it doesn’t look great, was at least acceptable given the time. Then, there’s genuinely terrible ADR and other sound effects. All told, its fine, but the movie isn’t noteworthy for pushing boundaries in the effects department.

Overall: 7 - Look. This is an excellent film. There’s some stuff to get past, and that’s even before you get to the fact that it’s well over two hours and gets kind of boring at times. But it’s still excellent, and definitely deserves its spot near the top of the classics list.