Rosemary´s Baby is a fantastic psychological horror film which set the genre in a new direction. This is a beautifully directed and acted movie with a terrifying idea at its core. Roman Polanski made this gripping film which scares the audience through clever direction and storytelling and without the traditional horror movie "monster".
Based on Ira Levin´s best-selling novel this is the story of a young couple in New York who are planning to start a family. We join them as they move into a foreboding apartment building and become friends with the old couple next door. The husband is an ambitious actor who´ll stop at nothing to achieve success and his poor naive wife is almost childlike in her innocence.
The previous occupant of their apartment died mysteriously and the unsettling tone of the film is apparent from the start. The slowly unfolding events are seen through the eyes of Rosemary, the impossibly naive young wife who is struggling to retain control of her own life. Sadly her husband is so intent on becoming a famous actor that he is willing to bargain with the devil and betray her. The true nature of what they have done to Rosemary is gradually and subtly revealed by the talented Polanski.
The success of Rosemary´s Baby paved the way for later movies such as The Omen and The Exorcist. Polanski was able to prove that audiences would enjoy a psychological scare as much if not more than a gore-fest or monster movie. He also tapped into the rich history of religion as inspiration for a familiar evil, something which clearly caught the public imagination.
The older couple, the Castevets, who take such an immediate and constant interest in Rosemary and her pregnancy, make the film. Their garish appearance and command of conservation is deeply unsettling and Rosemary and her husband soon seem under their spell. There are signs that things are going wrong but Rosemary seems powerless to save herself from the situation and her possible escape routes are painfully thwarted one by one.
Despite being in the middle of a huge city Rosemary is completely alienated and seemingly alone. Her mundane housewife role is threatened by the evil which surrounds her. This familiar domestic setting helps the audience to connect with the characters and makes the awful possibility of the events more frightening.
The casting is excellent. Mia Farrow is perfect as Rosemary, John Cassavetes is very convincing as the odious husband and the older couple are fantastic. Ruth Gordon deservedly won an Oscar for her portrayal of the unbearably nosy Minnie Castevet and Sidney Blackmer was extremely creepy as Roman Castevet.
The apartment building itself is the perfect setting, the brooding and oppressive Dakota building on Central Park West in New York. The once grand apartments have been split into smaller flats leading to a weak partition wall between Rosemary´s house and the adjacent Castevet home. Polanski really makes the most of this setting with some chilling shots of the building and a brief history of the suspicious infant killings which have occurred there. The film also features a dark, oppressive soundtrack which adds to the bleak tension and general creepiness.
The film was released in 1968 and signalled the arrival of a new exceptionally talented director in Roman Polanski who became Hollywood´s man of the moment. However just a year later tragedy struck and Polanski left. Whatever the circumstances of his personal life Polanski is a visionary and this film had a huge impact sending the horror genre in a new innovative direction which resulted in some of the best horror films ever made.
Rosemary´s Baby is a horror classic which stands the test of time very well. This psychological chiller is still very scary. It proved very influential, described by some as the "scariest movie ever" and established the director as one of the all time greats.