Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
The Issue: Feminism, women’s autonomy.
When you’re talking about horror movies that say something about society, Rosemary’s Baby is always near the top of the list and for good reason.
Rosemary’s Baby follows a young married couple, Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy (John Cassavetes) as they move into a new apartment building in New York City. The two befriend a strange elderly couple who live in the same building and push themselves into Rosemary and Guy’s lives. They convince the couple to have a baby, and at one point Rosemary passes out and dreams she is raped by a demon in front of them.
She becomes pregnant and begins undergoing strange changes: she loses weight, feels sick, craves raw meat. Their friends insist Rosemary use home remedies and see a doctor that’s a friend of theirs, often against her will. She eventually starts to think the neighbors are part of a Satanist cult and her husband is conspiring with them and tries to explain this to her real doctor, who assumes she is hysterical and sends Rosemary home with them.
Rosemary goes into labor and Guy tells her the baby died. Later she hears a baby crying elsewhere in the building and goes to investigate. All the building’s residents are looking over the baby, who is in fact the spawn of Satan. Rosemary is initially horrified but at everyone’s urging, she eventually gives in and cradles her son.
What It’s Saying:
This movie was made in 1968 but is still relevant today: a young woman fighting for control of her body while her medical and reproductive choices are being made for her. Rosemary is urged to get pregnant and have a baby, then told what doctor to see and how to care for herself best. The Satanists, including her husband, all claim to know what’s best for her and ignore her very real concerns. Even when Rosemary finally escapes their grasp and goes to visit her real doctor, he dismisses her claims of Satanic rituals as a woman’s hysteria and calls her husband to come collect her. This is what creates the true horror and tension: Rosemary has no power and is at the mercy of everyone around her.
The fact that this film came from noted rapist Roman Polanski is somewhat surprising, considering how in touch it is with the horrible ways women are treated.