Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Nightmare of Nosy Neighbors

Yesterday as I sat bemoaning the fact that I was running out of older films in my collection to review competently, I realized that I was being ever so slightly over-dramatic.  Yes, I think my resolution to review all the new Holiday Films I see is a good one to carry me through to the end of the year, but there are still films worth talking about that aren't so new.  I'm hoping to recieve one of them in the mail today actually.  It is a horror film that my own mother encouraged me to watch in my youth (I believe it was being shown on TNT's MonsterVision with Mr. Joe Bob Briggs) and yet she would tell me NOTHING about the film.  This is not what a teenager wants to hear when a parent is asking him to watch an OLD horror film.  However, I was a bit more evolved in my film tastes than most teens and I submitted to a viewing of it.  I wasn't sure what to expect, and I think that more horror films should be seen in this way.  It keeps the experience fresh and free from expectations.  In any case, on this day after election day that many feared would be the beginning of an apocalypse (and for some feels like it is...am I being overdramatic again?) I felt this film was appropriate.  Now I have to ask a question?  Have you ever lived next to a nosy neighbor?  I don't mean someone who asks the occasional question about your life and well-being...I mean someone who's always up in your business asking nosy questions and basically treating you like your life is a live soap opera?  I have one who is a candidate, but I think the neighbors in this film take the cake as far as being nosy and annoying...which is part of what makes their role in the film so sinister.  Let's bolt our doors against the busybodies of the world and find out what's happening with Rosemary's Baby.

Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse are a newlywed couple living in New York City and are full of hopes and dreams for the future.  They are currently struggling while Guy, an out of work actor, is attempting to find his way to stardom.  At the height of this challange, Guy and Rosemary decide to move into the beautiful and gothic Bramford apartment building on the Upper West Side where they find a real deal on a huge apartment.   While Guy goes out to job hunt, Rosemary stays at home turning the apartment into a place that they can eventually start a family.  In the process she meets Minnie and Roman Castevet, an elderly and eccentric couple who live across the hall, and Terry, the girl who lives with them.  Rosemary finds Minnie and Roman to be somewhat meddlesome and annoying, but mostly harmless and really enjoys talking to Terry.  Unfortunately, Terry suddenly commits suicide and Rosemary finds herself the new focus of Minnie and Roman's affection.  Soon after, following a dinner invite to the Castevet's, Guy begins seeing Minnie and Roman more, which proves puzzling to Roman.  Soon Guy begins landing important acting roles and getting famous and Rosemary becomes pregnant.  Upon Minnie's urging, Rosemary agrees to see a friend of the Castevet's, Dr. Saperstein, for her obstetric needs and soon after she begins having strange sensations and pains.  Rosemary begins to suspect that the Castevets and Dr. Saperstein are trying to harm her unborn baby and that Guy is in league with them.  Can she discover their plans in time or will they manage to complete their sinister plans?

Rosemary's Baby truely is best watched knowing nothing...so if you haven't seen it yet, just ignore everything you just read.  The film keeps a great many of it's secrets for a long time into the narrative and lulls you into a rather mundane drama about struggling newlyweds and the annoyances of living around people you don't like before finally dropping several bombs on you in quick succession.  Suddenly, old busybodies become enemies and even loving spouses can't be trusted (a theme the writer of the original novel for Rosemary's Baby, Ira Levin, has toyed with another time in The Stepford Wives).  It also feels, despite it's supernatural undertones that get revealed, as though this could happen in every day life.  The film, unlike others that deal with supernatural threats and witchcraft, takes place in a major metropolitan city and in front of hundreds of witnesses.  And yet, the threat is just as present as it would be if the story was set in less contemporary times and in an isolated village or old-dark-house.  The film turns many cliches on it's head (and also invents a few) and manages to be deeply disturbing without showing anything like excessive gore or nudity.  It doesn't need them...it has mood, and the implication of "what could happen" to our unborn children if we blindly trust the people we meet because they simply "look harmless".  To that end, I must congratulate Ruth Gordon (who won an Oscar for her role) and Sidney Blackmer for their portrayals of Minnie and Roman, the two nosy neighbors.  They are both so annoying and grandparent-like that its hard to imagine either of them hatching an evil scheme, which is all the more frightening when you rewatch the film.  Also, Mia Farrow is the physical embodiment of pain and fragility as Rosemary (who was nominated for a Golden Globe for the performance).  I won't reveal the unsettling conclusion of Rosemary's Baby but I will say that you will never forget it.  See it if you haven't already and prepare for a sleepless night.


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