I decided to start off my 18 horror novel challenge with a quick read. Rosemary’s Baby was one of the three shortest choices so I figured I’d start off with a bang and choose one of the most iconic horror stories ever. I also wanted to start off with this one since it was the oldest of the books on the list and I wondered if it would indeed stand the test of time and rival other horror novels I’ve read that were published post 2010.
The short answer: Kind of
The Long answer…well…………….
The Time Period
Have you ever been having a conversation with someone where laughs are being shared only for them to make everyone uncomfortable when they dropped the line “I’m not a racist but…..” If you’ve heard this before then you’re already ahead of me and you know where I’m going with this. This statement is usually followed by something horribly, horribly offensive and racist. That was this book in a nutshell. The unfortunate thing wasn’t that this offended me, it was that since it was just so outright offensive at times that you’d laugh at the absurdity of it and then it would take you out of the moment! Rosemary dropped inappropriate racial slurs in everyday conversation, she states how her ONLY abnormal neighbours are the homosexual couple down the hall and at one point during a party someone entertains everyone by telling Polish jokes. I couldn’t believe what I was reading a good chunk of the time, until my wife constantly reminded me it was published in the 1960’s. If anything, we said this was probably the least offensive thing published that year. The actual horror aspect of this novel relies solely on you realizing what time period this is in. In 2015 if you had neighbours who practiced anything related to the dark arts you’d probably laugh at them and mock them endlessly. But in the 1960s this was such an unknown topic that people were actually terrified of it, it held just a little less fear than communism did. So you can appreciate how this would have been scary at the time, but as horror has evolved over the years and witchcraft is no longer seen as a scary topic this loses some of its effect. It was a fascinating look at the everyday life of a newlywed couple in the 1960s though!
One of my favourite movies of all time is Fight Club. The thing that always unsettled me the most though was the climax of the movie when Ed Norton, who is involved in a plot no one will tell him about, goes to the police to tell them what’s happening. After finally telling them everything the police lock the interrogation room and reveal that they’re in on it also which basically makes him realize there’s not a single person he can trust. This is how Rosemary’s Baby played out and you FELT her frustration. Reading this I kept racking my brain saying “who can she even go to! I bet he’s in on it too! Oh you know she’s in on it!” Rosemary and her husband went out of their way to meet every single one of their neighbours, entertained them frequently (without the knowledge that they worshipped satan) and were overly friendly with every single person they came across. This is how the villains were able to infiltrate the couple’s lives, more often than not Rosemary felt terrible refusing someone entry into her home or turning down a gift (often which was laced with black magic). Place this book in 2015 and you’d see a newlywed couple who purposely avoided their neighbours, made up excuses of why they couldn’t get together and whose neighbours would never bother with gift giving. Me and my wife have had three new neighbours since we moved in together and I can tell you one of their names…..because I once got her mail by accident. The supporting cast in this certainly added to the story as everyone was nauseatingly nice which was always a bit unsettling, but they also helped in the classic theme of “are they evil or is she imagining things”.
I remember watching the Last Exorcism in the theatre with my sisters a few years back. I thought the entire thing was pretty terrifying but the part that legitimately made my heart start beating heavily was the final scene. The film crew emerges from the woods and sees a satanic cult surrounding the possessed girl who’s in a birthing position. They reach between her legs and bring out a baby, only it isn’t a baby. Then horror ensues. That’s all I could think of during the scene where Rosemary is initially impregnated. The thing that made it so scary was that she was experiencing vivid and disturbing dreams where the characters spoke dialogue that fit perfectly with the situation in the dream. The only thing is, if you read that dialogue itself and cross out the writing about the dream you realize that it’s the conversation the characters are having about Rosemary as she’s sleeping through the ritual. This disturbed me as it made me think of all of the dialogue in my dreams and thinking if maybe some of this dialogue had come from people standing around me while I slept……a disturbing thought I know, but its what I kept thinking of and thus it was terrifying to me! Overall I didn’t think that the book was THAT scary because the majority of the focus was on her pregnancy, once something scary was introduced I agree it was scary and unsettling. But the good majority of this novel was about doctor appointments, cravings, stomach sickness and preparing a nursery. I suppose this is terrifying if you’re not ready for kids yet?
The Movie/Remake Comparison
So I have to be honest and admit I’ve never seen this movie. And before you judge me, a lover of all things horror, for not having seen one of the most iconic horror films of all time remember this. I grew up in the 90s, in the 90s horror wasn’t witchcraft, demons or ghosts. It was expressionless giant super killers, tiny dolls and a tiny boy who could see ghosts. As per my original blog post I promise to watch this movie and then review that by itself, at the moment I can’t compare. But I will add I’m watching the original version which won an Academy Award (best supporting actress) and not the remake which currently sits at 51% on metacritic….
It’s good, it was completely and entirely an enjoyable read. Had this not been a horror novel and just a story of a woman’s experience of being pregnant while her husband was absent it would still be good. I just didn’t think that it was the scariest thing I had ever read and I don’t know if it would scare most people today. It was a quick read so if you’re interested then I’d say you won’t regret it since it’ll take up less than a week of your time. If you plan on reading this under a lamp while your apartment is pitch black because you want to be a little bit scared then you’ll be a bit disappointed.