Let me begin by saying I am SO TIRED right now so I apologise in advance for any errors in this post as they may be rife throughout. I wanted to share two amazing horror films that I watched over the weekend.
Anyway for the last few days I’ve been working my way through a list of “great directors” and started with Roman Polanski (criminal history notwithstanding). The first film I watched was Rosemary’s Baby, which was fantastic. It draws you into this horrifying concept that something as lovely and natural as motherhood can be twisted around into this absolutely perverted evil. It keeps you on the edge as you’re wondering if Rosemary is paranoid, as everyone around her tries to convince her, or if they really are all plotting against her.
It’s not the same as conventional horror films today, there’s no gore, it’s not especially violent, and the suspense works in a slowly burning fashion towards the inevitable conclusion. Probably the most disturbing image in the film is when Rosemary walks into the satanists’ gathering and sees a crib draped in black fabric with an upside-down crucifix hanging above it. Just the absolute juxtaposition of the innocence of childhood with the evil of satanism is truly afflicting. Also, the fact that her seemingly loving – though distracted – husband seems to think that trading their first born to Satan in exchange for fame is a good idea is one of the other fears that plays particularly on women. Mia Farrow is so perfect (and beautiful) in this role, she conveys a combination of fear and fierceness effortlessly.
The second film I saw was actually Polanski’s first English language film, Repulsion. It’s shot in black and white for dramatic effect and works particularly well. It’s also this type of slow-burn horror, but I was definitely more scared watching this than Rosemary. Carol, the main character, has this absolute fear and (ha,) repulsion of men, and several times she is put in situations where she is clearly uncomfortable but she doesn’t say so; for example, a man who is interested in her kisses her without her consent. It’s so frustrating because you can see her discomfort, but she’s literally so paralyzed with fear that she can’t scream, or even speak. So it’s not particularly surprising when she loses it and kills 2 people.
Carol also has these terrifying,disturbing hallucinations, both for her an the audience, of the apartment falling apart around her, disembodied hands coming out of the walls, and men raping her. Even in these hallucinations, although she screams, the sound is muted. An interesting technique that Polanski uses her is that in reality, her apartment that she shares with her sister is quite small, but in some scenes we see it through her eyes and it appears huge, with great empty spaces and long stretching corridors, almost how it would appear to a child. Carol often displays this child-like behaviour, staring off into space for long periods, daydreaming, not wanting her sister to leave her alone when she goes on holiday and other things of this nature. The film makes several references to childhood abuse which would explain her attitude in this way. Her progressive detachment from reality is difficult to watch and extremely provoking, as she goes from a functioning, quiet girl who works in a beauty salon to this catatonic, homicidal schizophrenic.
I loved both of these films; Rosemary’s Baby was not as scary as Repulsion, but it’s a different kind of horror. I think I enjoyed the first film more, perhaps because there’s more story and more dialogue; watching Rosemary uncover the plot around her is exceptionally gripping. Repulsion, is visually dramatic and psychologically very disturbing, but the storyline is fairly simple. Both Mia Farrow and Catherine Deneuve gave fantastic performances that keep these films relevant today, 40 odd years or so later. Definitely recommend seeing both of them, but be warned, Repulsion is definitely not a date-night film (kind of sends the wrong message.)