"Genuinely frightening in a way that's impossible to top 35 years later."
The late 60’s/early 70’s were a great time for being scared in a movie theater – and I’m not talking about the fear of getting something sprayed on the back of your head in one of those Times Square theaters – I’m talking about genuine scary movies. The Exorcist had lesser-stomached folks throwing up in the aisles and The Omen couldn’t have left my mom and more freaked out. And let’s not even get into Soylent Green – IT’S PEOPLE, PEOPLE!Rosemary’s Baby was one of those great 70’s flicks that helped put the Doris Day era out to pasture. Directed by Chinatown helmer (and convicted pedophile) Roman Polanski, there’s a very European feel to proceedings, as well as more than a little Hitchcock. Almost entirely taking place within the confines of a young married couple’s new apartment, the story tells of a young pregnant woman (Mia Farrow) who has a strange feeling that those around her aren’t exactly as they seem.
The neighbors are a kindly old couple, but they keep foisting strange brews on her that they assure her are good for her, and then there’s the doctor (whom they recommended) who assures her that the excruciating pain she’s experiencing is all a natural part of being pregnant. But what of the witches that used to live in the building, and the information she’s uncovered about her doctor’s secret past, and the strange deaths that seem to happen whenever someone looks like they might actually believe the girl’s story?
The real horror of Rosemary’s Baby isn’t in the spookiness of what goes on, but in the total lack of control that Farrow’s character has in her own life, and the paranoia that builds as more and more begins to go wrong for her. Can she trust her husband? Can she trust her doctor? Is it a baby growing inside her… or something else?
Polanski went ridiculously over budget and over time in the making of his film, but the result is one of those truly memorable enveloping film experiences where you come out the other side feeling exhausted and abused. Polanski would know this feeling very well when the notorious Manson family broke into his home and murdered his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, a year after this film was made. He again learned about the dark side when he fled the US after being convicted of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old. He has not returned to the United States since.From tortured minds comes tortured brilliance, and there’s no doubt at all that Rosemary’s Baby has just that. It doesn’t resort to guts and gore or cheap scares – this is all about the psychology of losing control of your life, body and mind. Who can you really trust?