Oct 27, 2014

Impressions: The Devilish Details In 'Rosemary's Baby'

"Tannis, anyone?"

The devil is in the details.

For me, it's the tiny, blink-and-you-might-miss-them details that are sprinkled throughout Rosemary's Baby that make it the classic film that it is. For the horror genre, Rosemary's Baby raised the bar on how horror films, especially psychological horror films, were to be executed for the following decade as it made sure to take the details presented (and those that were cleverly hidden) and have them take on bigger, unnerving forms and meanings by film's end --- everything is truly not what it appears to be at first glance.

When it was released, Rosemary's Baby diverted boldly away from the usual horror film set-up. Gone were the dark and stormy nights and Gothic castle settings of 1960s Hammer horror films. The setting of terror was now a posh apartment house in the middle of the hustle and bustle of 1960s New York City, its horrors confined in its claustrophobic quarters and illuminated in broad daylight. Gone are the snarling creatures that rise out of coffins and stumble around in fog saturated forests. The creatures are now humans in guises of busy-body octogenarians and a suave and seemingly devoted husband.

The horror is still just as unsettling as any old-fashioned chiller --- a young woman (Mia Farrow) becomes a pawn in a Satanic plot and is unknowingly raped and impregnated by the Devil himself --- but it's modernized by its eerie and slow burning build-up, its stark normalcy, and the pinpricks of foreshadowing that all seem mismatched and obtuse, even insane, but then come creepily together by film's end.

Not a minute or a movement is wasted in Roman Polanski's 1968 masterpiece, and to my knowledge, it follows Ira Levin's novel of the same name right down to every last detail. I know NBC had the dumb idea to make a TV mini-series remake recently, and from watching clips it left me with a chalky under taste (heh). I don't even know why they tried, I mean, you just can't recreate chilling intricacy like the 1968 version did. Plus everyone in the original film gives great performances, especially Farrow, who's innocence is just ruptured so chillingly, and Ruth Gordon, who is just so amazing as the comical and creepy Minnie Castevet. You just can't replicate or even top those performances.

You can't even replicate the look of this film. It's brightly lit for the most part, which thrusts the sinister events out in the naked open, and everything is so oddly colorful and has that great '60s Mod style that it's feels strange, dreamy, and trance-like throughout, like everything that's happening can't possibly be --- but it is. Even when that odd 'drugged dream' sequence creeps in, you never leave it after the fact, and really the movie began like a hazy nightmare right from the beginning, and you're just constantly feeling dread mount as the film progresses thanks to these stark seemingly natural, everyday images being distorted.

I never watch this movie the same way as I did before. I'm always finding something new that I missed, some little quote spoken that takes on new meaning or those fine-tuned little details that spring up to change my perspective or question others (though I still don't buy into the "Rosemary was hallucinating the whole thing" theory, total BS). I know every twist and turn, and of course, the doomed outcome, but it still feels fresh, and never am I not trying to warn Rosemary to get away from those meddling neighbors and that shifty-eyed husband of hers. I'm also never not chilled over the fact that a woman's pregnancy, something that is supposed to be intimate and innocent is turned into something so perverse. Oh, and that devil rape/procreating scene? --- absolutely terrifying.

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