Rosemary’s Baby is not your traditional horror film. There’s no jump scares, no gore, hardly any scary imagery, and yet it succeeds in being deeply disturbing because we watch a main character we come to care about suffer mentally and physically through a pregnancy that is anything but normal, while the people around her seem about as trustworthy as a used car salesman.
Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her actor husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), move into a new apartment in New York next to a strange older couple, Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer). Weird occurrences begin to happen shortly after. A woman Rosemary meets who lives with the Castevets seemingly throws herself from a window. Guy becomes distant to Rosemary the more friendly he becomes with the neighbors, and a man who got a part Guy wanted in a play mysteriously becomes blind. Rosemary also begins having strange dreams. She eventually finds out she is pregnant, but her pregnancy is abnormally rough and she becomes weak, starts losing weight, and is always in pain, despite consuming a peculiar health drink Minnie makes her every morning. On top of that, the doctor the Castevets referred her to is no help, always telling her that she’s fine and everything is normal. After months of torment and the mysterious death of her trustworthy friend, Hutch (Maurice Evans), she eventually becomes suspicious of everyone around her, and soon starts to worry for her baby’s safety.
Poor, sweet Rosemary. The first time I saw this movie, I couldn’t believe what her character put up with. I wanted her to freak out and start screaming at everyone, because that’s probably what I would do if I were in her situation. That husband needed a punch in the face, especially in the scene when Rosemary passes out and he has sex with her anyway. When she wakes up with scratches on her, she gives him a swift, soft-spoken scolding for not waiting until she was, you know, conscious. I would’ve been like, yeah, you’re not only going to get kicked in the balls right now, but you’re also going to be sleeping on the couch for three months, rapist asshole.
That’s one of the great things about this movie, though. Sure, Rosemary is really a reflection of the times when women were still widely submissive to their husbands, but it also gives us a reason to feel for her and root for her to wake up. The best thing about Rosemary is that she’s not dumb. She’s trusting at first, but she soon learns to follow her instincts, and the parts when she starts to figure it out and starts to stand up for herself–those are some of the best moments with Rosemary. The viewer becomes very involved with her character right from the beginning.
We, as viewers know there’s something not right with the Castevets, even if their only obvious problem right off the bat is that they’re extremely annoying. Rosemary never fully wants to get involved with them, no matter how nice they pretend to be to her, but only gives them the benefit of the doubt because her husband forms a friendship with them. Then we follow her as her trust in not only her neighbors, but her husband as well slowly dissipates. We are there with her when she suffers through her agonizing pregnancy, so much so you can almost feel her pain. Then when she realizes everything that’s going on and tries to explain the craziness to the only person she thinks might believe her, we feel her madness and desperation.
Roman Polanski created this almost perfect horror film that doesn’t need to fall back on cheap scares to arouse a true feeling of horror. The horror lies in the journey we endeavor with Rosemary and her awful pregnancy, a woman who cannot trust a single person she’s surrounded by, a woman who doesn’t have anyone to help her. That is truly horrifying.
I couldn’t picture anyone but Mia Farrow in this role. She really emanates the kindness in her character, and her performance throughout the movie transitions so smoothly as she goes through physical agony and becomes more paranoid as the story goes on. Ruth Gordon also stands out as Minnie Castevet, her naturally aggressive personality reminds me of a lot of people I know who were born and raised in New York, of course, not all New Yorkers are like that, but when you meet the ones who are you’re not likely to forget them (love you all).
Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby is one of the most well made horror films in history. Although it doesn’t provide the conventional type of scares, it succeeds in creating an eerily suspenseful and paranoid atmosphere as the story goes on, and we delve deeper with Rosemary into the supernatural threats that suddenly surround her and her unborn child. It is one of those movies I would recommend everyone should see in their lifetime.