Soon after moving into a posh new Manhattan apartment, life takes a turn for Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy (John Cassavetes). Guy has landed a good acting job and they are ready to start a family. Pregnancy, though, turns out to be more a curse than a blessing for Rosemary, who becomes more and more convinced that her husband has made a pact for their newfound successes and that she is carrying the son of Satan himself.
“Rosemary’s Baby” is widely hailed as one of the greatest and most terrifying films ever made. I don’t see it. At a little over two hours long, there is a lot of filler that bogs the film down. Mia Farrow plays up Rosemary’s naivete to the point of becoming annoying, Cassavetes’ character is largely unlikable, and the premise itself isn’t well developed. Ruth Gordon won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award with a truly memorable performance, but her character (Minnie) isn’t exactly endearing and the ease with which she and her husband, Roman, integrate themselves into the lives of Rosemary and Guy is contrived at best.
What the movie does well is play upon the natural fear of a woman’s pregnancy – especially her first. The mounting dread, the slow creep toward the end, all work well – the movie will creep you out and hold you in its clutches. It works well as a psychological thriller. The story is dark and the film is shot well to emphasize that. The pacing, contrivance, and a fairly forgettable ending work against it however.
Overall this classic tale is just that: a classic. It shows its age and, frankly, a level of immaturity in its execution. It gets points for treading what was new ground at the time and for being willing to stick true to its vision throughout the journey. It’s dark and atmospheric and a good enough “dark and stormy night” -type film. Most terrifying horror movie of its era? Not hardly.