#52. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Directed by: Roman Polanski
Written by: Roman Polanski (based on Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin)
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy
Filmmaker Roman Polanski’s career can essentially be split into two periods – before the murder of his wife Sharon Tate by members of the sadistic Manson Family cult, and after. Rosemary’s Baby, based on the novel by Ira Levin, would be his final film released before her untimely death – but would help to set the tone for the rest of his long career. In it, we follow young Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) as they move into a new apartment in New York City, where they look to settle down together. Soon after moving in, the couple meet Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer), who are quick to help Rosemary and Guy with settling into the new building. Soon after moving in, Rosemary dreams of being raped by a demonic entity, and from there things seem to become stranger and stranger by the day. Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is quite possibly one of the most atmospheric horror films ever made, perfectly building tension until its shocking ending. While the film was made a long while before the United States experienced the “satanic panic” of the 1980’s, it ended up being a rather fitting end to the 60’s – especially after the series of grisly murders by the Manson Family, reminding the romantics of the time that not everything was all sunshine and roses. Rosemary’s Baby is the second film of Polanski’s loose “Apartment Trilogy”, including films Repulsion and The Tenant, all of which explore similar themes and take place in apartment buildings. Polanski paces the film perfectly, sending small clues of what’s to come early on, but largely focusing on character development and familiarizing viewers with the layout of the apartment. The performances of both Mia Farrow and Ruth Gordon are the best parts of the film, with both actresses dedicating themselves entirely to their roles. Mia Farrow’s frail and rather meek Rosemary is perfectly naive that the events of the film are believable, and Ruth Gordon’s Minnie Castevet is shrill, annoying, and just a little too helpful at times. Without these two incredible performances, I’m not sure Rosemary’s Baby would be nearly as impactful. Rosemary’s Baby is a deliberately paced, carefully crafted horror masterpiece that takes full advantage of a claustrophobic apartment setting, and preys on fears of satanism and pregnancy to make viewers squirm in their seats. If you’ve never seen it, I urge you to do so immediately – it might just keep you up at night.