Friday, October 14, 2016

31 Days of Horror: ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968)


Welcome horror fans, to Day 14 of the 31 DAYS OF HORROR!  We are back with another film in our lead up to Halloween, and today we will be reviewing the classic Roman Polanski horror film...ROSEMARY'S BABY.  Enjoy!

Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy (John Cassavetes) Woodhouse have just moved into a new apartment. Life's going pretty decent for them and they are happily married. When Minnie Castavet (Ruth Gordon), their apparently friendly neighbor, starts to intrude a little to much on their privacy, Rosemary, who has just gotten pregnant, starts to experience more and more unusual behaviors from the people around her and starts getting suspiciously sick.

That is all the plot details I will let myself reveal for this film, I know that they are incomplete, but I also know that many people still have to watch this film and since it is so crucial to go into this one truly knowing as little as possible I will limit myself in the review too, in order to leave you the pleasure of experiencing for yourself the greatest horror film ever made.

Almost fifty years from its release, Rosemary's Baby still stands high as not only my favorite horror film, but one of the greatest films ever made. One of those that, when occasionally adding up a top 20 features ever made, keeps being brought up to the top spots. This is a treasure of a film, one from which I have learned the most about filmmaking and one that I hope to convince you to watch if you haven't yet had the fortune to. This is an experience, a film that crawls into your head and body and doesn't leave you for a long time after having seen it.

What distinguishes this film immediately, the element that truly makes it terrifying is its theme: this film is about true horror brought to life, this film is about the terror of a mother fearing the loss of her baby before it is even born. Now from that incredibly harrowing idea, Polanski builds up a film void of any clich├ęs or any horror tropes: there aren't jump scares, there aren't actually any scares at all; this is a film about paranoia, about madness and stress, about your life being taken away from you and that is exactly what drives your mind crazy in watching it.

The anxiety levels that are built up through the long takes used throughout the whole film are off the charts. You feel as though weight is being put on your body and the more you go on, the more pressure you feel as you struggle to shrug it off of yourself, but you just don't manage. The film keeps going on, keeps building, it even has a double climax which tricks you into thinking you are safe when in fact the whole stress and adrenaline you have built up for two hours is brought back to you in the final sequence which is as tense as I have ever been watching a film, as horrifying as anything you could experience and as surprising as you could believe.

All of that is not just coincidence, the craft put into this film is stunning. What Polanski managed is unrepeatable and it is the mark of a great director in his prime state. He uses constantly long wide takes to capture everything going on in Rosemary's life, for two hours you witness her growing paranoia in brilliant little ways. Polanski plays with audience expectations and messes around with traditional filmmaking efforts to make the audience grow paranoid at the same pace of Rosemary. There is just one sequence in the whole film that could be considered horror, the rest of it is just apartment life, or is it? The attention to detail here is what make the difference, the little ways the actors move, the gargantuan and brilliant performance by Ruth Gordon who drives you crazy, the little information packages that are slowly delivered to you, the incredible sound design that shows how simple horror can be and how the fear of the unknown is what drives humans mad.

As I said Ruth Gordon is brilliant in the film, half of the box office revenue should have gone to her for making the character of Minnie Castavet come to life in its fullest and most unsettling form. Yet all of the actors here are giving lessons in acting. Everyone of them contributes as a piece of the puzzle and once the whole picture is unveiled to you, you will appreciate their work for how glorious it is.

The screenplay too is something to be studied. Interestingly enough it is considered one, if not the one, script to be the closest adaptation to a book ever written. Apparently the book lent itself easily to an adaptation because on a script level too the film is just flawless. Dialogue is absolutely incredible and every single line is layered with more than what meets the ear. Moreover, the character work is pitch perfect and does not lend itself to even half a dull moment, every person in the picture is on screen for the right time and function. You manage to digest the perfect amount of information for you to understand further developments and never too much for the whole ordeal to collapse.

I have nothing but admiration for this film, even after multiple viewings. It just keeps getting better, I keep discovering new details and the paranoia I get from it just keeps growing, but don't worry, when it is all said and done, what you will remember and take away from it is actually the adrenaline the film manages to fuel into your body. The experience you are given is priceless, it is just glorious cinema that uses the medium of visual storytelling to its full, top-most advantage and delivers one of the greatest motion pictures ever made.

James's Score: 9.5/10


Be sure to stay tuned throughout the rest of the month! We're posting a new horror review every day all throughout October, both old and new! Check back to see what movie we'll have you covering your eyes from next!

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