- Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse
- John Cassavetes as Guy Woodhouse
- Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet
- Sidney Blackmer as Roman Castevet
- Maurice Evans as Hutch
- Ralph Bellamy as Dr. Sapirstein
Unraveling at a deliberate pace and bristling with macabre intent, Rosemary’s Baby is a psychological horror, that under the talented hands of Roman Polanski really gets your mind working and leaves a haunting impact with ambience, excellent work from the cast and creepy atmosphere.
Rosemary Woodhouse, a sweet-faced young woman and her struggling actor husband Guy move into the Bramford apartment in New York. Though they are warned that the place has a very sinister history by good friend Hutch, they ignore it with Rosemary stating “Awful things happen in every apartment house” and move into the old building. The young couple intends on starting a family and set about settling into their new home. Soon enough, Minnie and Roman Castevet; two elderly neighbours who are very inquisitive and eccentric, introduce themselves into the lives of Rosemary and Guy. Guy finds the couple endearing and harmless, but Rosemary feels uneasy around them as they become increasingly nosy and overtly friendly. It’s around this point that strange events begin to occur to the innocent Rosemary. Guy becomes strangely distant when he acquires a plum role in a prestigious play after the lead actor who originally had the part goes blind. Rosemary begins to hear weird chanting from her neighbour’s apartment. Guy begins to spend an unusual amount of time with the Castevets. And finally, Rosemary discovers she is pregnant. Though happy about the news of her pregnancy, she is plagued by a recollection of a very vivid dream she experienced after eating something prepared by the oddball Minnie. In the harrowing dream, she was raped by a demonic presence. Rosemary soon becomes very isolated, frightened and convinced something is wrong as her symptoms of pregnancy don’t add up( she starts to look gaunt, has deeply severe pains in her abdomen, her new doctor prescribes bizarre remedies and she seems to be losing weight rather than gaining it) and her neighbours become more and more ingrained into her life. And with the unusual nature of her conception at the forefront of her mind, she begins to feel as though there is a dark, sinister plot against her and her child of the supernatural kind and that Guy knows something about it. Are Rosemary’s fearful behaviour and concerns for herself and her unborn child for a good reason? Or are they simply the alarming delusions of a naive mind?
Roman Polanski wonderfully writes and directs this creepy psychological horror that knows the meaning of slow burning terror. He builds paranoid tension by utilizing the setting of the apartment to craft a sense of isolation as Rosemary becomes more convinced that sinister designs are planned for her baby. Polanski knows exactly how to exploit audience fears by cranking up the ambiguity of the piece. Is Rosemary imagining it all? Or are her beliefs that something supernatural is a foot real? Polanski just brings so many possibilities to the piece but despite the overtones of something not of this world, he makes it all very realistic because of the seemingly normal setting. There’s little gore in Rosemary’s Baby, but this is the kind of horror film that is all about sinister suggestion and is all the more effective for not resorting to blood-soaked carnage. The camerawork is predatory in its movement, creating tension and unnerving suspense as it continues to follow the slowly terrified Rosemary. A devilishly crafted and often deceptive score of unwinding menace provides many chilling pieces of music, most prominently a lilting lullaby that repeats in creepy fashion, sung by star Mia Farrow.
Heading the impressive cast is Mia Farrow in a hugely convincing and harrowing performance. As Rosemary, Farrow imbues her with such a waifish innocence that it is hard not to sympathise with her and twinned with her elfin appearance of large, haunted eyes and iconic pixie cut, she is a character who you genuinely want to shield as the morbid plot unravels. And as the story goes on, Farrow essays the sheer amount of escalating panic and fraught emotion with deft skill, as we witness the tortured Rosemary slowly becoming more paranoid of events around her. I think it’s fair to say this is Mia Farrow’s best performance of her career. John Cassavetes has just the right amount of slimy arrogance to keep you guessing whether Guy is in on the plot that Rosemary believes is meant for her. In a well deserved Oscar-winning role, Ruth Gordon perfectly plays the dotty Minnie, who starts off as a nosy neighbour dressed in garish clothing and then evolves into something more devilishly sinister thanks to her morbid humour and kooky peculiarities. Sidney Blackmer excellently compliments Gordon as Minnie’s husband Roman, who for all his eccentricity, can be very creepy indeed. Maurice Evans in the supporting cast is great as Rosemary’s friend who becomes very concerned for her well-being, while Ralph Bellamy is unusual as the doctor who prescribes strange remedies for her and may know more than he is letting on.
Slow burning terror and psychological games make Rosemary’s Baby a masterpiece of mood and atmosphere that insidiously gets under your skin.