The Horror Honeys: Witch Month: “He has his father’s eyes”

Witch Month: “He has his father’s eyes”

A Supernatural Honey Witch Month Review by Suzanne

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

When it comes to witchcraft and classic horror films, you’d be hard pressed to find a list that doesn’t contain Rosemary’s Baby. Written and directed by Roman Polanski, and based on Ira Levin’s bestselling novel, it is widely considered one of the greatest horror films ever made. This was Polanski’s first American film and he delivered a very faithful adaptation of the source material. It is also second in his Apartment Trilogy, released between Repulsion (1965) and The Tenant (1976). 

As if pregnancy isn’t stressful enough on a woman, both physically and mentally, throw in a coven of elderly Satan worshippers getting her pregnant with the son of the Devil and she’d be lucky to get away with any shred of sanity remaining.

Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), rent an apartment in the Bramford, an old, Gothic building with a sordid past. They soon become friendly with an eccentric old couple, Minnie and Roman Castevets (Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer). Guy, who is struggling to make it as an actor, develops a rather strong bond with the couple and spends a lot of time with them. Soon after, Guy’s career has an upswing at the expense of a rival. He then tells Rosemary he wants a baby. After a rather brutal conception, the death of a close friend, and suspicious behavior of those around her, Rosemary becomes convinced her husband and her neighbors are witches and are going to sacrifice her unborn child.

Creepy neighbors? Check.
While not straightforward horror, Rosemary’s Baby is a psychological thriller with horror elements. The tension is developed through Rosemary’s suspicion and paranoia. As she becomes more convinced that those around her are out to harm her and the baby, her fear is projected onto the viewer. When she finally sees another doctor and tells him her theory, he seems to believe her and you are pulled into her false sense of relief. Then the rug gets yanked out from under you. The infamous rape scene has such a dreamlike quality, yet is utterly terrifying.

The cast couldn’t be more perfect. Mia Farrow’s portrayal of the fragile and naïve Rosemary is so believable you can’t help but worry for her, even after a hundred viewings. Cassavetes’ Guy is selfish, domineering and scared to death. The supporting cast consists of some of the best character actors in the business. Along with standout Ruth Gordon, who kills it as Minnie, and Ralph Bellamy as the sinister Dr. Sapirstein, there’s Elisha Cook Jr., Charles Grodin, and Maurice Evans.

Filmed on location in NYC, using the famous Dakota building as the Bramford, the city is just as much a character as any actor. The dark and foreboding atmosphere is actualized with a muted color palette and the luck of a dreary fall and winter in Manhattan. Say what you will about Polanski, he is a phenomenal director and his ability to create a subtle and unsettling film without any cheap tricks is something few directors have accomplished.

Supernatural Honey Rating: Four and a half tannis root protein shakes out of five
Fun fact - During my first year in NYC, my friend, who was a film student, shot a scene from Rosemary’s Baby in my apartment for one of his projects. 

You can purchase Rosemary’s Baby on DVD and BD. Criterion released a marvelous multi-format edition that is totally worth the cost. You can also rent it on Amazon Streaming.