Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary's Baby

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Rosemary's Baby is one of those well-crafted movies that reminds the viewer that horror doesn't necessarily have to equate to gore. The recent success of The Others only goes to prove that this tense type of thriller is just as effective now as it was back in the Sixties when Ira Levin's Baby was adapted for the screen by director Roman Polanski.

It gets off to a seemingly innocuous start, resembling soap opera more than horror, as Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and her newly-wed actor husband Guy (John Cassavetes) - "He's been in two plays and a commercial", she tells anyone who'll listen - move into a massive gothic apartment building in New York. So far, so soapy, and certainly their enthusiastic, if a tad nosey neighbour Minnie Castevet (Ruth Gordon on hilarious Oscar-winning form) doesn't initially give cause for concern.

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However, Rosemary meets a girl in the laundry room, who later dies in mysterious circumstances, and things become more sinister. Minnie and her husband Roman (Sidney Blackmer) start to pay her more and more attention, but it quickly becomes apparent that it isn't just Rosemary they are interested in.

When she falls pregnant after a night when she eats half of Minnie's specially prepared chocolate mouse and begins to experience the same worries, sicknesses and doubts of many first-time expecting mums, the film begins to take on a satanic twist. What is in that "lovely" vitamin drink that Minnie makes each day, not to mention the odd-smelling herb Rosemary carries in a pendant around her neck? Is it merely coincidence that Guy's career has suddenly begun to soar and was that nightmare Rosemary had about being surrounded by naked elderly folk something less than benign?

This film ingeniously lays a horror tale over what are, for the most part, perfectly normal events often experienced by pregnant women and it is its subtlety which is its strength. The characters are thoroughly believable - we have all had elderly, friendly neighbours who we like but sometimes wish would leave us alone, or a friend that has ceased to socialise because they got married and fell pregnant.

Farrow and Gordon are superlative in their roles. Gordon's ditzy delivery is both funny and spooky by turns, while Farrow's descent into near madness is perfectly executed without being over-played. If there is a criticism, perhaps some of the lesser characters are a tad wooden - Polanski admits in the retrospective interview, also on the DVD, that he cast people for their looks rather than their ability - but none of this gets in the way of a film that is as chilling now as it was back in 1968.

Reviewed on: 11 Jan 2002
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Taut supernatural chiller with Mia Farrow having a devilish time with her pregnancy.
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Director: Roman Polanski

Writer: Roman Polanski, based on the novel by Ira Levin

Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, Patsy Kelly

Year: 1968

Runtime: 131 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:

Karlovy 2013

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