Rosemary's Baby ★★★½

Add this film to the list of "classic horror" films that should never have been classified as such. Despite the obvious occultist overtones, Rosemary's baby is a psychological thriller of the purest variety, albeit with sparingly-used supernatural elements. There's a lot about this film that, when watching it for the first time 45 years after its release, doesn't resonate on the same wavelength with the eyes of a modern viewer. Techniques Polanski uses in montage sequences and the performance qualities of actors in the late 60s serve to distance new audiences from the subject matter. It's a problem that rears its head a lot as I catch up on decades-old classic cinema, and the late 60s are an especially difficult time - caught somewhere between modern approaches to filmmaking and more baroque approaches to plot and performance.

But the film is undeniably worthy of the "classic" moniker, with a simplicity of structure that turns slow-boil into creeping dread. It's very much a period piece that captures the gender gap of the 60s extremely well, as Rosemary is continually oppressed and usurped by those around her, with very little control over her own body and the process of childbirth. It's an embellishment, sure, but it's the perfect period in which to set a story of psychological imprisonment.

Because we, as an audience, are able to form a pretty clear understanding of what's going on before Rosemary does, the film isn't entirely dependent on a twist ending or elaborate reveal. All that's left at the climax is for Farrow's character to decide how she wants to react to receiving closure, and that's where perhaps the most interesting idea of Levin's story truly disturbs.

Rosemary's Baby leaves a lasting impression, with an idea that endures to this day. With a wife currently halfway through pregnancy, it's a film that covers some very primal territory for me personally - a worry about what's going on beneath the surface. But it's also very much hinged upon equally base notions of trust and greed, and what happens when these get twisted by evil. Because all of these facets are so well harnessed in this film, it will continue to creep out new audiences for decades more, despite the distractions of the era in which it was made.