Originally Published Wednesday 8th October 2008
We all have tells, those little quirks and gestures that give away what we’re thinking or feeling. Some people look in a certain direction when they’re lying for example, or fidget when they’re bluffing at poker. For me when I’m tired and absent minded I play with my hair and when I’m pissed drunk I sing Denis Leary’s hit song “Asshole”. Mr. Leary’s musical stylings are a party piece of mine due to the simple fact that for the most part I can remember the ranting bit, even when shitfaced. If you walk into a room or bar or are passing a certain gutter at a certain time and you see me strutting around like a deranged fool from Boston then you can rest assured that I’m three sheets to the wind at that moment. It’s one of my tells to be sure. I know the song pretty well but one thing has always bothered me about it and that’s the very last part of the rant where it trails off with a list of names… “…I’m gonna get The Duke, and Lee Marvin, and Sam Peckinpah, and John Cassavetes, and a case of whiskey, and drive down to Texas…..” I know who those guys are (or were) except for John Cassavetes, I never knew who he was until last night when I sat down to watch “Rosemary’s Baby”.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968) stars Mia Farrow (who was served divorce papers from Frank Sinatra during the making of the movie) as Rosemary and John Cassavetes as her husband Guy, a young couple in New York who move into a new apartment in a building with a history of unusual goings on and violent deaths. The couple befriend their elderly neighbours and Guy becomes particularly friendly with two meddlesome and nosey but apparently harmless old people. Life is good for Rosemary and Guy. Guy’s acting career takes a turn for the better after he lands a role vacated by an actor who suddenly turns blind and the couple plan to start a family. After a romantic dinner one night (the dessert of which was supplied by their auld neighbours) and a few too many glasses of wine, Rosemary passes out and has a messed up dream in which she is raped by a demonic creature. The following morning Guy reveals that he’d slapped one into her when she was asleep as it was the right time of the month to knock her up. (What’s really disturbing about this is not that Guy did that but that he enjoyed it in what he calls “a necrophile sort of way”).
Rosemary gets pregnant and attends a doctor recommended by their neighbours who advises Rosemary to stick to natural medications during her pregnancy, herbal drinks and the like. As the pregnancy progresses Rosemary becomes increasingly unwell, losing weight and suffering terrible pains that her doctor keeps telling her will pass. Her friends become concerned and one friend in particular, Hutch, does some investigating into the herbs she’s been taking. Hutch falls into a coma before he can tell Rosemary what he has discovered and he eventually dies. He leaves word that a book be given to Rosemary on the subject of witchcraft. After reading the book and decoding her dying friends last message to her, Rosemary figures out that her new neighbours are part of a cult who have used her to bring about the birth of the Antichrist!
Rosemary’s Baby is a slow burner of a film and never really scares in the way that modern horrors try to; there’s no jump out of your seat moment or any gore to speak of, though there is a bit of nudey cult action during one of the dream sequences. The horror is in the situation Rosemary finds herself in and it is here that the fright lies as I can imagine that any mother goes through all sorts of paranoid moments during a pregnancy and deals with fears of things real and imagined. Rosemary is surrounded by unsympathetic people, including her dear husband, who do nothing except chastise her for her appearance despite her obvious illness and do nothing to help her as she suffers. That lack of sympathy is a really scary concept and is a common theme in horror, the last three films all have an element of people either not believing, not caring, or deliberately out to do harm; from the victims perspective the result is the same.
Rosemary’s Baby has some important lessons about trust in it. You cannot trust Old People as they are all devil worshippers, Obstetricians are the most untrustworthy medical professionals who will help devil worshippers ply their filthy trade, husbands are all lying bastards, mothers will raise Antichrists (but we knew that), and Tenacious D are definitely in league with some evil people (there’s a great scene where two old women shout out “Hail Satan” in a way that totally reminded me of Tenacious D).
Two thumbs up for Rosemary’s Baby (despite the woeful product placement) a film so good that the planned Hollywood remake can only make a balls of it.