The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Will Rosemary’s Baby beat The Exorcist?

with 26 comments

A couple of years ago there was a debate going on in the Filmspotting forum about which movie was the better – Rosemary’s Baby or The Exorcist. It appears as  if The Exorcist won at that time with slim marginal, counting 15 votes to 11.

I haven’t cast my vote yet, since it’s been too long since I watched either of them.  I didn’t remember very much, apart from the head spinning in The Exorcist, which I believe freaked me out quite a bit back in the days.

But I’m soon to find out and make a call. It turned out that my local film club is running a horror theme this autumn and will show both of them.

First out was Rosemary’s Baby last week, and honestly believe The Exorcist will have a tough time to beat it.

This story about a pregnant woman and her increasing suspicions about the intentions of the people in her immediate neighborhood is still unsettling, even if the movie is over forty years old.

It proves that you don’t need splatter and gore, flying heads and jumping effects to reach a satisfying level of scariness; a good script and good acting is all it takes.

In my case I suppose it helped a bit that I’m quite easily frightened and that I’ve been through two pregnancies and easily could identify myself with Rosemary. The worries you feel, especially expecting your first child, can sometimes border to paranoia. You’re prone to follow whatever “expert” advice that is tossed in your direction, but sometimes you end up in the middle of conflicting ideas. And whatever you feel from inside – kicks or lack of kicks, pain or lack of pain, you take as a bad omen. The whole situation of carrying a different life inside you is quite unreal. Rosemary’s Baby launches from those fears that already are there, just pulling them a little bit further.

Mia Farrow, only 23 years old at the time when the movie was recorded, is absolutely splendid as Rosemary. Watching her I felt with a pang how much I’ve missed her. I think the last time I watched her on the screen must have been in 1992 in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives. After they broke up, she went off my radar.

It remains to see if The Exorcist can top Rosemary’s Baby. From an esthetic perspective I doubt it can beat it. I’m usually completely unaware of and uninterested in fashion. But the design from the 60s and the seemingly endless wardrobe of Rosemary’s made me even me drool.

Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski US, 1968) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

October 13, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Rosemary's Baby

26 Responses

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  1. I like it more. Both are really good, but Rosemary’s baby is just more effective to me without, like you said, having to resort to the gore. Plus, I find it much more unnerving and effective.

    James Blake Ewing

    October 13, 2011 at 1:41 am

    • I really liked it. The verdict will come in about four weeks.

      Jessica

      October 13, 2011 at 7:49 am

  2. That’s an insanely tough choice for me. Both movies are among my favorite horror films of all time. Thankfully, I don’t have to make a choice between the two.

    I think Rosemary’s Baby has a slower build-up of tension and dread, but The Exorcist doesn’t rush things, either. By necessity, The Exorcist has more gore, and Rosemary’s Baby is more psychological. Ugh…good luck choosing between them.

    Sir Phobos

    October 13, 2011 at 11:13 am

    • Considering that I’m way much more into phsychology than gore, The Exorcist will have a tough time. But on the other hand it does have Max von Sydow, a favorite of mine. That counts for a lot as well!

      Jessica

      October 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      • Speaking of Max von Sydow, his makeup is probably the best aging I’ve ever seen on film.

        Sir Phobos

        October 14, 2011 at 5:41 am

  3. I definitely prefer Rosemary’s Baby myself. I watched both films for the first time within the past year or two, and Rosemary’s was way more unnerving compared to The Exorcist that almost bordered on unintented comedy for me at times. That’s not to say it’s not a good horror film, but it rarely scared me. RB had me on the edge of my seat.

    If you haven’t seen them, you might want to check out the other two parts of Polanski’s apartment trilogy. RB is the middle one, with Repulsion preceeding it and The Tenant capping it off. Both are well worth seeing, especially Repulsion which is one of my all-time favorite horror films.

    Emil

    October 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm

    • I’ll give a verdict on the RB vs TE fight later on, but I have a feeling I’ll come to the same conclusion as you. I definitely need to watch more Polanski. I’ve seen some but not those you mention. RB gave me taste for more of the same kind.

      Jessica

      October 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    • I agree, Repulsion is really cool. I have The Tenant, but I’ve yet to watch it for no reason….

      Sir Phobos

      October 14, 2011 at 5:42 am

  4. For me, they are equally good. Which unfortunately not means much, since the books have “ruined” both of them for me. Smashing books, though 🙂

    Sofia

    October 14, 2011 at 11:39 am

    • I wasn’t aware of that The Exorcist is based on a book tbh. Shame on me.
      Adaptations of books you love can be a tricky thing. I tend to like the medium where I first took part of the story best, it could be the movie as well as the book. Even if I really try hard to keep those things apart, judging them on their own merits and nothing else.

      Jessica

      October 14, 2011 at 11:45 am

      • You are quite right, it’s usually the first version one tends to like best. My prime exception to this rule is Le scaphandre et le papillon (Fjärilen i glaskupan). The movie was so-so for me, but I loved the book, especially its format, when I read it afterwards. Question is though, would I have loved it as much as I did, not knowing the background I got from the movie? 😉

        Sofia

        October 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm

        • I haven’t read the book but I’d love to. I actually loved the movie until I learned afterwards about how the truth was manipulated by the widow. That took away a bit from it. You can read my take on it here:

          https://thevelvetcafe.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/based-on-a-true-story-is-a-tricky-thing/

          Jessica

          October 15, 2011 at 12:30 am

          • Well, what do you know?! I had no idea about this… Always the problem with BOATS. I think one of the things I liked better with the book was that it was more poetic little snapshot fragments, rather than a cohesive story. Which on the other hand naturally is immensely hard to trasfer to a visual medium.

            Sofia

            October 15, 2011 at 7:23 pm

  5. If we are talking about horror movies that are dealing with the devil I have to say that the best movie in that sub-genre is The Omen much beter that both Rosemary`s baby and the Exocist. But thats just my humble opinion 😉

    filmitch

    October 14, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    • I’m afraid I haven’t watched that one. Or if I did (not impossible) it’s so long ago that I don’t remember it. They showed it at my film club as a part of the horror theme this autumn, but unfortunately I couldn’t attend that showing. Some day perhaps.

      Jessica

      October 15, 2011 at 12:31 am

      • I side with filmitch on this one, The Omen is much better. But then, I hadn’t read any books when I saw it 😉

        Sofia

        October 15, 2011 at 7:19 pm

  6. Bought a Polansky boxset a year ago which contained this movie amongst others of his classics. So I watched it for the first time a year or so ago and it’s definitely a 5/5 for me. The movie is over 40 years old but it still managed to creep me out. It’s doing the old Hitchcock trick: “A bomb under a table goes off, and that’s surprise. We know the bomb is under the table but not when it will go off, and that’s suspense.”. And this movie goes a long way to keep us suspenseful without using any cheap tricks. In fact, most of my favorite horror movies are like that: not much gore but a lot of playing with your mind.

    Carra

    October 16, 2011 at 12:21 am

    • Exactly my opinion. It’s perfectly doable to do make movies that scare you well enough without chopping off peoples heads or pulling out their intestinals. I think I have Repulsion at home as well and I hope to see that one too.

      Jessica

      October 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm

      • Yeah, it’s what made low budget movies like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal activity so great.

        Repulsion looks like a nice movie, I’ll try to remember it.

        Carra

        October 17, 2011 at 12:18 pm

  7. I’ve never actually thought about comparing the two. I saw the Exorcist as a kid and as an effect of that I’ve always had a strong bond to it, but Rosemary really swept me of my feet when I saw it a few months ago. Mainly because Mia Farrow is so amazing. Like you, I’ve mostly seen her in Woody Allen’s movies. She’s always been terrific in those, but they’re still so different compared to the challenge Rosemary must have been.

    Pladd

    October 16, 2011 at 2:33 am

    • It’s lovely to go back and discover – or rediscover those old movies, isn’t it? The movie history is so full of goodness. Movies to be swept of by our feet as you say. You never know when it will happen!

      Jessica

      October 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm

  8. […] vs The Exorcist Finally I owe you a verdict. As I watched Rosemary’s Baby earlier this autumn I promised to match it against The Exorcist. Which one did I like […]

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  11. rosemary baby is perfect i love this movie , i hate the exorcist !

    norman bates

    August 14, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    • Haha, that was a fun nick name you had! I actually love both.

      Jessica

      August 14, 2013 at 8:54 pm


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