4 November 2010

Clarky's Review: Rosemary's Baby

I had never seen this film until Ally brought it to Horror Club early on in the 2010/11 season, and whilst I had heard its name mentioned in film magazines and websites before I didn't actually know much about the film. Little did I know that I was in for a real treat.

Cinema, and film, is never better than when something comes from nowhere and knocks your socks off. Thankfully this is what I was subjected to when I saw Rosemary's Baby, and I say subjected because at times this is a tough watch. In the best tradition of 70's horror the scariest things are what you don't see. It's whats implicated instead. (Please note that there are spoilers from here on, so if you've not seen the film yet, I urge that you go away and watch it before reading the rest of this post!)

In this sense, Rosemary's Baby stands head and shoulders above a number of modern horror films in my opinion. You can imagine that a modern day remake would have an extended rape scene involving a full shot of the devil and a close up shot of a CGI baby at the end. All of which would detract from the horror.

This is a psychological horror that looks at societies view of madness and plays on your paranoid sensibilities, but it also examines what lengths we would go to to achieve our dreams. Whilst at times you don't know what is happening during this movie (there is a surreal dream like sequence early on and even the rape scene isn't particularly clear at first) that's part of the joy of this movie. It doesn't spoon feed the audience. You get an inkling, or a feeling that something isn't right but it is never fully explained until the conclusion.

And what a conclusion. Whilst it could be argued that this isn't a "horror" film, I would argue that in some senses it is scarier and more traumatic than some of the gorno films that we see nowadays. The mental anguish that Rosemary is put through is unbearable at times, which ultimately leads to the feeling at the end of the film that she has been broken and is going to tend to her "spawn". As mentioned earlier we never see the Rosemary's Baby, and the film is the better for it.

The look of the cradle evoked enough terror. Added to this that everyones idea of what the devils son would look like is scary enough. Any actual onscreen presence is sure to disappoint someone, and hence what isn't shown is more effective and ultimately scarier. Polanski was so determined not to have a shot of the baby that he didn't even bother filming it. Something that I think executives nowadays would demand upon as a safety blanket at least.

In fact I'm not sure if it would still be possible to make a film like this anymore. The subtleties, the well drawn characters and the slow pacing would be quashed by some executive who would want to produce a slick 3D CGI flick with a 90 minute running time that would be forgotten in half the time. However, I should note that I have often compared the psychological horror to that of a recent "horror" - Black Swan. Therefore, if you enjoyed the psychological aspects of that film, then Rosemary's Baby may be for you.

Its testament to this film that, after only 1 viewing, it still evokes a strong reaction when I think about it. In short this is a cracking film that I can't recommend highly enough.

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