Tag: rosemary’s baby

Beyond the Door


Beyond the Door (1974)
★★ / ★★★★

Jessica (Juliet Mills) and Robert (Gabriele Lavia), a happy couple with two kids (David Colin Jr., Barbara Fiorini), have a new addition to the family: an unplanned baby. Jessica does not realize she is pregnant until strange things begin to happen to her. When she goes to the doctor (Nino Segurini) for a check-up, it turns out she has been pregnant for three months, at least relative to the rate the baby is growing, not a few weeks like she has anticipated. Meanwhile, Dimitri (Richard Johnson), Jessica’s ex-boyfriend, dies in a car accident. In order to live again, he makes a deal with the devil. Given that Jessica’s baby is born, he will have a second chance at life.

“Chi sei?,” or “Beyond the Door,” directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis and Robert Barrett, takes inspiration from William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” and Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” but is only marginally successful because it is not able to maintain a high level of tension and horror for after the initial shock.

The scenes shot indoors embody a claustrophobic feel. When the two children are terrorized by walking dolls, shaking beds, and strange noises, I cared about what would happen to them. As former children, we all know how it was like to be scared out of our wits in our very rooms, after reading a scary story or watching a horror film, even if our parents were just right across the hall. However, the scenes shot outdoors are less successful because the menace is mitigated. For instance, when the husband walks around the city of San Francisco, he is randomly serenaded by street performers. Such a thing does not have much room for a movie like this because the light-heartedness takes away the remaining tension the picture has going for it.

Only one outdoor scene works: when the pregnant Jessica takes a random banana peel off the ground and started licking it ravenously, it dares to get a reaction out of us and we know right away that something is very wrong.

Robert does not understand what is happening to his wife. From a medical point of view, no one seems to be able to explain her condition. The filmmakers might have taken the opportunity to make us guess the heavy thoughts running around in his head. Does he contemplate about an abortion? Perhaps turn to someone who has experience with the occult? Focusing on a private space, the mind, by urging us to pay close attention to the character inhabiting a public space might have been an effective way to lure us into the story instead of us being reduced to wait for the next bizarre occurrence.

I was impressed with the artists’ use of make-up. When Jessica starts to become possessed and talk in a very deep voice, the make-up makes the performance more believable. As the devil gains more control over her body, the make-up makes it look like the character is in the early stages of decomposition.

“Beyond the Door” might have been an experience rather than a worn facsimile if the screenplay has had more original ideas to work with. Taking inspiration from other works is good if done right and consistently, but to be a staple requires taking risks and becoming an example. “Chi sei?” does not do either. It contains two or three solid scares but the rest are regurgitated goo.

Rosemary’s Baby


Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy (John Cassavetes) decided to move into a New York City apartment with a strange past involving women who ate children. Rosemary was enamored with the decor and Guy thought the area was a premiere place for his career as a budding actor. They lived next to Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman (Sidney Blackmer), an elderly couple with whom Rosemary and Guy quickly grew fond of because they were so friendly and accommodating. But the couple’s happy existence was shattered when Rosemary had a dream of being raped by Satan and learned some time later that she was pregnant. Based on a novel by Ira Levin and directed by Roman Polanski, “Rosemary’s Baby” was a masterful understated horror film with a possibility of witchcraft at its center. It worked in two ways: Either Rosemary’s suspicion that the apartment complex was full of devil worshippers was indeed correct or it was simply that Rosemary didn’t know how to handle her pregnancy (after all, it was her first child) so her mind succumbed to paranoia over a period of nine months. Its brilliance was in the fact that we didn’t know which possibility was true until the final few scenes. When we finally found out, it almost didn’t matter because Rosemary’s journey felt complete. The picture capitalized on expertly rendered scenes of increasing creepiness. It ranged from Rosemary hearing weird chanting from behind the walls of their bedroom, her husband’s increasingly suspicious behavior, to our protagonist actually eating raw meat without her conscious mind’s control. I loved the scenes when the very pregnant Rosemary ran around New York City in broad daylight yet so much tension and horror surrounded her. With most horror pictures being set at night, especially their climax, Polanski proved that being surrounded by people in the middle of the day could be as terrifying as long as the elements were perfectly aligned. When the main character was in a phone booth waiting for an important call, we felt right there with her, wishing the phone would ring as soon as possible. We cared for the main character because Farrow instilled a certain fragility in Rosemary, not just because she was carrying a child, but because it felt like everyone wanted to control her. This was clearly shown when Minnie would imposingly wait for Rosemary to drink a special brew she made using plants from her herbal garden. We felt, like Rosemary, that there was something seriously wrong especially when the obstetrician, Dr. Sapirstein (Ralph Bellamy), wouldn’t prescribe her any pills after months of feeling pain in her stomach. “Rosemary’s Baby” is a thinking person’s horror film and the rewards are found in the way we interpret the images we see and sounds we hear. Imagine looking at the portrait of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. You stare long enough and you get the unsettling feeling she might be staring back.

Orphan


Orphan (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

I was pleasantly surprised how effective this psychological thriller was. With a running time of two hours, it was able to build up the tension it needed to truly scare the audience when the evil child began to unravel what she was capable of. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, “Orphan” was about a mother who is still mourning for the loss of her baby (Vera Farmiga), a father who wants to help the family move on from a tragic loss (Peter Sarsgaard), and their decision to adopt a precocious girl named Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) to join their family. Little did they know that Esther has a plethora of secrets of her own and it would take a great deal of effort and energy (and a whole lot of convincing) to unravel just one of them. It is really difficult for me to say any more about this film without giving away the final twist. But let me just say that this movie did not cheat (i.e. result into supernatural explanation or fancy camera work) to achieve that twist so I was impressed. This picture definitely reminded me of “The Good Son” and “The Omen,” just because a child was a villain in both. However, I think this film was on a different level of excitement because, unlike “The Good Son,” the villain’s methods are much more graphic yet insidious, and unlike “The Omen,” it is actually grounded in realism and that made the picture more haunting. I also liked the fact that the other two kids in the family (Jimmy Bennett and Aryana Engineer) had important roles that drove the movie forward. If I were to nitpick, the only thing I thought the movie could have worked on was the history regarding Esther. By the end of the film, I felt like there were a lot more that the audiences did not find out about her and what made her the way she is. Other than Farmiga as the mother who no one believes in and labels as paranoid (which brought “Rosemary’s Baby” to mind), Fuhrman is a stand out. I want to see her in more movies and her range of acting because she made me believe that a child was capable of doing all those horrible things. Even though “child-killer” movies have been done before, I enjoyed this flick because I could not help but imagine that if I was in the mother’s situation, I would do absolutely anything to keep that evil child away from me and my family.

Repulsion


Repulsion (1965)
★★ / ★★★★

Roman Polanski’s “Repulsion” was about a manicurist (Catherine Deneuvre) and her steep descent into paranoia and eventual madness when her older sister (Yvonne Furneaux) and her married boyfriend go away for vacation. Deneuvre’s characters is interested in sex but at the same time repulsed by the idea of men touching her (hence the title). Hearing her sister and her boyfriend having sex in the next room (the sisters share an apartment), being pursued by a charming bachelor (John Fraser), and her lack of outlet for her negative feelings all contribute to her deteriorating mental state. I admired the movie, there’s no doubt about it, but I simply liked it for its style–the lack of special effects, the effective silent moments, and the haunting black and white images as the audiences were able to see what the lead character was seeing. I thought the story was pretty weak because it did not spend a solid amount of time to convince the audiences why we should care for the main character. I thought she was weak and had attachment issues. Why should I root for a character with barely a flickering ember inside of her? I also did not like the fact that a person with a mental illness was shown as someone who was violent and readily capable of killing (in reality, most aren’t). Lastly, I hated Polanski’s soundtrack, especially those horrid drums. Whenever I heard such loud bangings, it immediately took me out of the mood and left me frustrated. Instead, I would have loved to see more of Deneuvre and Fraser on screen together because I thought they had some sort of chemistry worth exploring. I understand that this had a small budget but that is far from the issue because I liked its realistic images of horror (hands coming out of walls and all). I definitely saw some parallels between this film and the masterful “Rosemary’s Baby” (also written and directed by Polanski). It’s just that this picture is not as fully realized because it needed more time in the editing room to cut off some unnecessary minutes.

The Unborn


The Unborn (2009)
★ / ★★★★

This horror movie was so bad, I didn’t know whether to laugh or get angry after the final scene. Odette Yustman suddenly starts having nightmares about a boy who obviously wants something from her. It starts off that way but eventually, the evil that was once in her dreams begins to manifest itself in reality, affecting her relationships with her best friend (Meagan Good), her boyfriend (Cam Giganget) and her own sanity. I am not exactly sure how much I should give away because it tried to be about a lot of things but ultimately became about nothing. One minute the lead character was running around (literally–her jogging scenes felt like forever and a day) moping about her mother and the next she was asking people to give her an exorcism. The so-called twists did not make sense to me at all. While it did try to make homage to horror greats such as “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” it felt contrived and there were definitely some parts where I thought it was merely stealing ideas instead of using such ideas as a template and taking the story to the next level. I did enjoy some creepy images but the suspense was simply not there. When the obligatory “jumpy” scenes arrived, they felt uninspired because it was all sharp film cuts and loud soundtrack to me. When I watch a horror picture, I want my heart to pound like mad and anticipate what’s going to happen next. With “The Unborn,” written and directed by David S. Goyer, I felt like each scene was a punishment I didn’t deserve. I think one of the main problems is the script. The dialogue absolutely killed me. I actually lost count how many times the lead character said, “I know this is going to sound crazy but…” I don’t know if that’s worse or cheesy lines like “I don’t think you’re crazy, I just think you’re hormonal.” I mean, come on. Hasn’t Goyer seen the “Scream” franchise? If you ask me, I think he’s asking to have a bad movie with that kind of writing. Obviously, I’m saying to skip this one because I’ve seen it all before. If you’re interested in a modern exorcism picture, rent the superior “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” instead. That one truly gave me the creeps.

Ghostbusters


Ghostbusters (1984)
★★★ / ★★★★

This movie provided me bucketloads of nostalgia because I used to watch the cartoons when I was younger. Starring and written by Dan Aykroyd (Dr. Raymond Stantz) and Harold Ramis (Dr. Egon Spengler), “Ghostbusters” is really fun to watch because of its originality and bona fide sense of humor. The film also stars Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman, Ernie Hudson as Winston Zeddmore (an eventual Ghostbuster), Sigourney Weaver as their first client and Rick Moranis as Weaver’s mousy neighbor. I was impressed that each of them had something to contribute to the comedy as well as moving the story forward. I usually don’t like special and visual effects in comedies because the filmmakers get too carried away and neglect the humor, but I enjoyed those elements here because all of it was within the picture’s universe. Although the movie does embrace its campiness, it’s not completely ludicrious. In fact, since the Ghostbusters are part of the Psychology department, I was happy that the script managed to use the psychological terms and ideas in a meaningful way such as the idea of Carl Jung’s collective unconscious. I also liked the fact that it had time to respectfully reference (or parody?) to “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary’s Baby.” Although the humor is much more consistent in the first half, the second half is where it manages to show its intelligence such as the fusing of ideas from gods of various cultures and Christianity’s armageddon. Without the actors providing a little something extra (such as Murray’s hilarious sarcasm), this would’ve been a typical comedic spookfest. The special and visual effects may have been dated but it still managed to entertain me from start to finish because the film is so alive with ideas and anecdotes with universal appeal.