For his second (official) Halloween Special, Kevin O’Connor decided on Roman Polanski‘s 1968 classic, Rosemary’s Baby.

Kevin asked me if I had any shorts that featured babies for topicality (even though the actual baby – as opposed to the pregnancy – does not feature heavily in the film) and I found a nearly perfect one. Naturally, it’s Kids In The Hall, and it’s simply called “Baby”:

The “I’m stealing your baby” motif is what really makes it fit. But let’s talk about the feature film.

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Just a bit more eyeliner and she’s Margot Tenenbaum

Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse open the film in search of an apartment – they’re actually quite friendly with their current landlord but Guy is a struggling stage actor and hopes to relocate a bit closer to Broadway. They view a seventh-story place that was once carved out of a larger apartment and whose previous tenant, an old lady who had gone senile and apparently grew a ton of herbs in the place, has recently passed away. The agent showing the apartment is a bit mystified by a secretary cabinet that is placed in front of a closet. It takes both the agent and Guy to move it back to its original location and the old woman could not possibly have moved it.

When they talk to their current landlord Hutch about the place, he turns into a walking Tobin’s Spirit Guide, apparently having an encyclopaedic knowledge of the full creepy history of this building. Guy and Rosemary move in anyway.

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I Was A Male Candystriper

And sure enough, weird stuff starts happening. Rosemary meets a fellow female tenant who has been saved from the streets by an old couple also living on the seventh, Roman and Minnie Castevet. Despite seeming perfectly content, she apparently commits suicide by jumping from the window. The Castevets are a bit less than disconcerted over coming home to find the police surrounding the body. Then, despite Rosemary seeming to hear pagan chanting coming through the bedroom wall, she and Guy allow themselves to become more and more friendly with the overly-nosy Castevets. Minnie seems to be altogether too interested in Rosemary’s potential childbearing, for one thing. And when Guy and Rosemary have identified a good ovulation target date, Minnie drops by their romantic dinner with some chocolate mousse dessert. Rosemary complains about a chalky undertone, but Guy insists that she eat it. She covertly disposes of most of it, and shortly thereafter falls terribly ill.

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Well, I guess it beats a blackout tattoo

Guy helps her to bed, where she has horrific dreams about being involved in some sort of pagan ritual, tied down in bed by the Castevets and others who insist that mousse will have knocked her out completely, and then being raped by some sort of beast. Creepy, meet…way worse than creepy. And worse than that, when she wakes up, she finds scratch marks on her side and back – Guy admits that he got a bit overeager and took advantage of her when she was passed out. This sort of thing was apparently kind of OK in 1968.

Sure enough, Rosemary gets pregnant, but after her first visit to the Ob/Gyn, the Castevets interfere again, offering to hook her up with their friend the best Ob/Gyn in New York City, and at a discount. Guy thinks this is a terrific plan, and breaks off the relationship with the first doctor, while the second one insists that Rosemary read NOTHING about having a baby and instead of prescribing the various vitamins and minerals that modern society has at its fingertips prefers to have Minnie mix up a daily special shake for her. This shake contains the stinky tannis root, a seemingly unknown medicinal root (hey, there’s no internet, OK?) that also happens to be inside an amulet necklace the Castevets have given to Rosemary. (An amulet identical to one they had also given to their suicide tenant.)

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Watch ’em foist hell

Rosemary has a particularly difficult and painful pregnancy, which the Ob/Gyn seems completely unconcerned about. But when old landlord Hutch comes to visit, he finds the entire setup very unusual, and decides to go off researching tannis root and some other things. Unfortunately, right after he sets a meeting with Rosemary to discuss something he won’t mention over the phone, he falls into a coma. Only when he dies some time later does a caretaker of his deliver a book he had addressed to Rosemary entitled “All Of Them Witches”. Between the information in the book and a clue about an anagram that makes Rosemary realize that “Roman Castevet” is a perfect anagram for the name of the young son of an infamous turn-of-the-century witch, Rosemary becomes convinced that the Castevets want to steal her baby to sacrifice it. Guy convinces her that she’s out of her mind and throws the book away.

This movie says "Yes"

This movie says “Yes”

Rosemary, however, remains completely unconvinced of the benignity of the situation, and as she is in the final stages of her pregnancy she goes for a final visit to the hand-picked Ob/Gyn. Finally, when the secretary lets slip that the doctor ALSO often smells of tannis root, Rosemary can no longer ignore these coincidences and flees to her original doctor with the whole story. And wouldn’t you know it, this guy thinks she’s going through some sort of prepartum stress and calls up Guy and her tannis rootin’ O-B to take her back home.

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As long as it’s got ten fingers and two hooves, we don’t really care if it’s a demon or a succubus

One sedative and a few restraints later and Rosemary has given birth to a baby boy, that she is told died during birth due to “complications”. But when she hears a crying baby through the wall, she dismantles the shelves in the closet (remember the closet?) and finds that the closet served as a passage between the two apartments. And what does she find in the Castevets’ apartment but Guy and a coven of witches venerating her baby. Her baby which is earthly son of Satan himself. And, horrified as she is, her motherhood instincts take over and she begins rocking the gothic bassinet as the movie closes. The End.

This is an amazingly well-done movie. The atmosphere is undeniably creepy even though there’s really no monster evident. Most horror movies are far more explicit about the danger that their victims are in, but here it’s all innuendo and coincidence. There’s no zombies walking the street, there aren’t any teenagers impaled on spears or dismembered with chainsaws, there’s just a distinct, growing sensation of paranoia. And the best part about it is that the movie, down to just prior to the final scene, could actually have ended with no revelation of witchcraft whatsoever and still have been a great movie. Was she imagining it, was it all a weird series of coincidences and paranoia run wild, or was there actually a plot against her – “we’ll never know” would have been an acceptable answer. Of course, the movie went for even more shock value than that – Rosemary was right all along, though she did not exactly divine the final intentions of the Castevets, which were even more sinister than the whole “sacrifice-my-baby” theory.

As ridiculous as the plot is, the film is simply a masterpiece of paranoia. Just don’t watch it if you’re planning on getting pregnant, ever.

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