I recently watched Roman Polanski’s famous 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby, a tale of Satanic worship and paranoia set in a Manhattan apartment complex. It is often lauded as a classic and “masterful” tale that causes mounting terror as the macabre plot unwinds….
This is definitely a film that hasn’t aged well. That was my first response, which isn’t great for a horror film. As a fan of classic horror, I was always recommended this film but never really got round to watching it. It’s very dramatic, very well acted and has good moments, but actually isn’t scary at all. It is probably a victim of time, whilst we can see it’s a well made movie, it’s very hard to actually feel the connection it would have once had. Mia Farrow is a total wet-lettuce, and as the plot unwinds it’s easy to see where it’s all going.
Many archetypal horror films remain scary and atmospheric; from Nosferatu, to The Wickerman and Don’t Look Now. Whilst we may be much more desensitized to blood, gore and violent shocks as an audience, few modern films manage to create anything approaching a spine-chilling creepy atmosphere. These classic horrors combine atmosphere with classic shocks, which might not be subtle compared to Rosemary’s Baby, but are much more effective when watched today.
This is a meticulously crafted film, but I felt little fear or concern over the characters involved, and couldn’t connect with the story. Considering the issues it deals with, including our archetypal fears and paranoia about childbirth, it does little to disturb or challenge the fears of a modern audience. I have a collection of old books on folklore and fairytales. When you actually read many old fairytales they contain similar stories about fear of the unknown, with similar twists and turns.
This felt like a very old fashioned story, and the big “payoff” at the end felt a bit naïve to me, as if we were supposed to never have imagined anything so dark. If you are a newcomer to horror, or not too keen on jumping out of your seat, then this might be the sinister story for you. But if you have as dark an imagination as me, you’ll be used to things being much much scarier!