Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rosemary's Baby

So many of these classic "horror" movies really don't resemble what we think of as modern horror in any way. The focus is on things like story and mood rather than surprising the audience to try to make them piss their pants, or pushing the envelope when it comes to gore. I gotta say, I like it the old way. While I still think he's a terrible person, I have to admit Roman Polanski's films are now 2 for 2 when it comes to living up to their reputations. Chinatown was a great, more modern film noir, and Rosemary's Baby is a pretty terrific tale of paranoia. Unlike other Satanic horror of the era that I've seen, where it's pretty obvious from the beginning that something very wrong is happening, this film had me wondering the entire time about multiple aspects of the plot. Not only whether there really was a cult after the baby, but also whether the cult's beliefs were right. The ending answers those questions pretty definitively in a scene I found surprising based on how it seemed to shift the tone away from what had been built over the last couple hours, but I thought it ended up working despite its obviousness.

The movie is pretty much the definition of a slow burn, taking a very long time to develop the characters and their relationships before really getting the plot going. Heck, Rosemary isn't even pregnant until maybe 45 minutes into the story. You spend a lot time just learning about these people and trying to form ideas about who they really are, though it's hard to say anything for certain based on the information given. There's a pretty overtly Satanic scene early on, but it isn't definitely real and after that there's very little solid evidence one way or the other. There's a delicate balance that is maintained, making you wonder if Rosemary's losing it while providing just enough hints to suggest that she might be right after all. Things are slow for a while, but especially in the second half the film turns into a great piece of suspense, with some really nice little touches and perfectly drawn out moments to keep you twisted around in the best way like a classic Hitchcock movie. I again hesitate to call it a horror movie thanks to the modern connotations, but Rosemary's Baby is at least one of the best supernatural (or is it?) thrillers I've ever seen.

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