For most of us cinephiles, we remember the first time we saw a movie, whether it be in the theater, or at home. If the film shakes you, positively or negatively, there’s a residue left that seeps into your memory and makes it challenging to let go. Well, I don’t want to- so I’m going to highlight some Kristy horror history for this wonderful, special, month of October.
Rosemary’s Baby was a film I saw young enough where it was one that I didn’t quite understand why it scared me. It was more psychological than some of the others I had been consuming, and my not-quite-yet strange enough brain wasn’t ready to be completely compelled. The fact that it was still was is part of the reason it’s coming up in this list of 31 movies (which was very hard to only limit to 31). I find that for my earliest recollection of the film what stood with me the most was the overarching feeling of unease.
Even if you don’t know fully why something latches onto you, doesn’t make it any less true that it does. In many ways my imagination, and the direction of this film that demanded I use it, created something terrifying in my head without always explaining why it was.
“This isn’t a dream! This is really happening!”
Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes) move into a new building, hoping to start a family. After she becomes pregnant, her new neighbors Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) seem to want to help her, but there are ulterior motives underneath, as she grows more and more suspicious of those around her and their intentions. This includes her husband who continuously seems to disregard and dismiss her concerns.
Ominous. Rosemary’s Baby has always felt so ominous, much like another I almost wrote in its place The Omen. From an early onset of both of those films (there are other similarities as well, heh) there’s a hint of dread that is decidedly persistent on never letting you forget it. You see it in the characters, you feel it in the overwhelming mood, and when the end comes, you are consumed by it. What a spellbending ending too!
It’s pure psychological horror at its best, elegant in a way that’s rarely seen now, as the anticipation of what’s to come and the walls of security and certainty begin to fall around Rosemary.
The design of the apartment immediately feels as creepy as it inevitably proves to be, and the expert use of sound editing and that score (!) is perfect. The monsters in Rosemary’s Baby are more terrifying because of their suspected, as they portray it, innocence. The juxtaposition of characters and locale, the horrifying and the everyday life, make it enthralling. This isn’t a show and tell sort of horror, it’s the kind you breath in slowly and with each inhale, you feel heavier and heavier. The film is crafted in a sophisticated fashion, with detail paid to every movement of camera, and as the realizations settle in, and tightness in our chests is also reflected on Farrow‘s face.
Mia Farrow is phenomenal, tapping into maternal fears and sense of distrust with full vulnerability. She carries this film on her shoulders, even as everyone tries to push her further down, she remains, headstrong and resilient. There’s a moment where she’s just walking through oncoming traffic, her head clouded with (rightful) paranoia and fear. The movie uses its slow build expertly, as if feeling the full nine months and perpetual climax as Rosemary does, becoming more and more convinced that what she is carrying may be more than a child.
Rosemary’s Baby has inspired many to come after, finding a pulse of imitations in film and TV alike, with many hoping to capture the disturbing nature of this horror classic. All for good reason. It stands out because it truly is a rare sort of nightmare.