I've recently joined my friend in watching the horror section of the 1001 films you need to watch before you die, and we started the session off with the 1968 film Rosemary's Baby.
Starring then-Hollywood darling Mia Farrow and created by heavyweight Roman Polanski, this 1968 film was based on a novel of the same name that came out in 1967 by Ira Levin. At the time of creation, the golden age of cinema as undergoing a period of modernisation and the film capitalised on the social upheaval that was taking part in the United States at the time.
As a horror writer and avid fan, the twist at the end was easy to see coming, but the long-awaited events that got there drove the drama to a sheer point of madness, making it both a good film to watch in entertainment, but also to theorise. Watching Rosemary's Baby, you can see why this was classified as not just a cinematic masterpiece, but a horror one.
The main reason behind the thematic mastering was the movie's success in playing off the natural trust that is instilled in the community at a young age. You are told to trust doctors, loved ones, husbands, and the elderly because of their good intentions - they couldn't possibly be the ones behind something sinister.
The characters of Roman and Minnie Castevet are simply cast off as elderly, nosy neighbours that harbor on the stereotype, the husband seen as looking out for Rosemary because men are supposed to protect their wives. Dr Saperstein simply must have good intentions given his profession, no matter how kooky his methods are. Many outsiders in Rosemary's life - such as her friends at the party she throws - show great concern over her life once they become privy to it, but Rosemary is so encapsulated in innocent niativity, these important people in her life couldn't possibly be conspiring against her. It raises the terror that can come through loss of innocence - not just in a sexual state.
Another reason why Rosemary's Baby is depicted as a masterpiece is the overall pacing of the film. At 137 minutes, it feels more drawn out to encompass a slow reveal and provides the ultimate ending once the danger has surmounted beyond irreputable evidence. It is highlighted with the haunting melodic score throughout the film to match, starting with Mia Farrow's lullaby at the start of the film. It reeks of devious deceptions beneath the surface that aren't that easy to unearth.
Taking a political stance, Rosemary's Baby is also a profound metaphor on the victimisation of women in the 1960s, despite the second wave of feminism at this time. It's horrifying to find her husband Guy so nonchalantly playing off his alleged rape of Rosemary in her fever dreams, which is all too quickly forgiven. Her reproductive rights are taken away from her and her role within duty depicts it as given up freely due to her nieivity, which reflects the world that we still live in today decades on.
The whole thing swells to the ending we all saw coming, the ultimate anti-reveal and the menace that haunts Rosemary not only is real, but prevails in the end. Rosemary's Baby is still a masterpiece in horror today because unlike modern horror movies which centre on jump scares and twisted characters, Rosemary's Baby turns societies most current and prevalent fears and builds to the ultimate horror of reality itself.