Thursday, 19 October 2017

Thirteen Nights of Halloween Horror | Night One - Rosemary's Baby (1968)

image credit: paramount pictures

As a recently graduated film student, one would assume that I've seen the majority of the horror 'classics' ... I can confidently admit that is not the case. Whether I have never got around to watching certain films or I may have been terrified of them as a child, for the run-up to Halloween I will be watching, reacting and presenting you with brief first impressions of thirteen films that I have never seen. 
Having a film recommended to me by my mother is a sure sign that it is going to be pretty messed up, as she tends to scare herself half to death, form an irrational fear of whatever was in the film (Trees at night > Evil Dead, empty attics > The Exorcist), and proceed to tell me, ‘Hey! You’ll love this!’

… and I sure as hell enjoyed Rosemary’s Baby. Directed by Roman Polanski (I know), the film displays an impressive run time of 136 minutes. I very nearly harbored a complaint that the film – the first half especially – was too slow. But ultimately, all the puzzle pieces formulated with the first hour culminate towards a frenzied, terrifying reveal through intricate tension building that has influenced many horror films that followed in its Satan-infused footsteps.

More psychological thriller than straight-up horror, Rosemary’s Baby follows a young, married couple – Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy (John Cassavetes) – who move into an unsettling apartment complex in New York City whose occupants may have slight involvement with the occult, witchcraft, and Satanism. Guy, a struggling actor, discovers the tenants spellbinding past-time, and agrees to have Satan itself rape Rosemary, impregnate her and bear its offspring so that in return, Guy can further his acting career through witchcraft.

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It’s the slow, tense uncovering of this plot against Rosemary that creates the true horror of the narrative., along with an absence of non-diegetic music until the terror begins to reveal itself. As the viewer, we are placed in the same position as Rosemary. We follow her journey of discovery and are made to feel both helpless, confused, scared and furious for her and with her. Sure, the last act of the film bears resemblance to the horror we know today, but because we are thrust into Rosemary’s position, it reveals the ultimate horror of the unknown, the eventual realization and the subsequent denial displayed by those around us.

Watching this film after seeing so many horror films and television shows, it’s obvious how influential Rosemary’s Baby has been on both Hollywood and the viewers' psyche. It introduces the notion that your every day, ‘normal’ neighbor could be harboring a terrifying fetish or cult-like obsession behind closed doors. I mean, how would you know? Narratives explored in the likes of American Horror Story: Murder House and the X-Files episode ‘Sanguinarium’ follow the same device of taking something completely mundane and revealing a dark, seedy underbelly that could be there. You just need to know where to look.

Petrifying, right? 

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