Horror Classics: Rosemary’s Baby relevant horror after 50 years

Roman Polanski's 1968 film remains as poignant and relevant in 2018.

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Naomi Hofferber, Arts Editor

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For the month of October, each Saturday, the DI Arts team will look at the horror classics that shaped us as consumers of the spooky genre. Spoilers below, but if you haven’t seen it by now, that one is on you.

 

The demon baby is the least terrifying aspect of 1968’s Rosemary’s Baby.

Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, a 50-year-old horror staple, touches on societal issues that, if anything, have become more and more frightening. The story starts with sweet and shy housewife Rosemary (Mia Farrow) persuading her husband, Generic Man (but really, his name is Guy, and he’s a failing actor), to move into an old apartment complex with only old neighbors and rumors that devil-worshippers lived in the place a long time ago.

An intrusive old couple from across the hall quickly befriend Guy and Rosemary and, discovering they are trying to have children, immediately become way too invested. Guy becomes closer to the couple, and instantly, his acting luck changes — his top competitor goes blind, and he becomes really insistent that now is the time to have a baby.

It is physically painful watching Rosemary be dragged along like a passive sack of stones, sometimes quite literally, through what follows.

She is drugged by her husband and the intrusive old couple and is raped by literal Satan, who leaves awful scratches all over her body. Her husband, who watched it all happen, then gaslights her about all of it — Guy denies everything and laughs off the scars on her body. Additionally, he and the old couple make all decisions about the pregnancy that ensues from the rape: They take her away from the doctor she wants in exchange for one who is in on everything and ignores her pain and concerns, tells her not to listen to her friends or read, and refuses to give her vitamins to help with the pregnancy.

While the devil-worshippers and the thought of a demon baby are supposed to be the driving fear aspect, the true horror comes from the lack of control Rosemary has over her body and her life, being reduced to nothing more than an incubator for a demon. No one listens to her concerns, no one tries to help her.

The only hope we are given is when Rosemary’s old friends do listen to her, try to help her, and believe her pain and intuition that something is not right. They are the only ones in the movie who believe her.

Can you imagine? Living in a society where the only ones who believe you and your pain are other women?

Huh.

Regardless, from a cinematic standpoint, Rosemary’s Baby checks all the necessary boxes: shots and scenes made to unnerve, an uneasy score, an air of mystery on whom to trust, Rosemary’s depth of expressions. The film makes for an unnerving watch, whether it is 1968 or 2018, even if it’s frightening for different reasons.

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