Rosemary’s Baby Devil’s Due
(1968, 2 hrs, 16 mins) (2014, 1 hr , 29 mins)
For my 100th post I wanted to write about my favourite movie. A difficult choice, but it always comes back to Mia. Rosemary’s Baby has always stayed close to my heart; it inspired the name for this blog, and it is chilling and comforting at the same time, fulfilling my ultimate horror need. There is a mythology that comes with this classic film-from the original book by Ira Levin published in 1967, to the choice of director, to the actors; Mia’s infamous Vidal Sassoon haircut and finally the location that spins a near perfect tale. The sets, the transformation of the characters, and the horror that builds from one scene to the next has yet to be duplicated. There has been chatter of late on a new film about devil spawn, called Devil’s Due. Many people see it fit compare the classic film to this new addition to the genre for obvious reasons, but it may not be as easy as pointing out the obvious.
No matter how many times I watch Rosemary’s Baby, I always get goose bumps at the ending. Mia Farrow’s haunting vocals as the credits roll and the camera pans away from the iconic Dakota (starring as the Bramford in this film) always gets me. After watching it for the umpteenth time, I have to correct myself. This film is not near perfect. It is perfect. From the first few minutes, there is a sense of gothic foreboding, even as Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse (Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes), the modern young couple in love, start their lives in a new apartment. When Guy is offered success in exchange for Rosemary as the mother of Satan’s spawn, the temptation is too much for him to resist. Most of us have seen the film and know what the outcome is, however, the plot is played out with such subtle horror that we can imagine this actually happening. Key coven members Minnie and Roman Cassevets (played brilliantly by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer) masquerading as nosy neighbours, coupled with Guy’s ruthless ambition and Rosemary’s vulnerability created a tale of supernatural conspiracy that grips you until the final frame.
In Devil’s Due, Zach (Zach Gilford) and Sam (Allison Miller) are happy newlyweds. Zach has a persistent need to document every waking moment of their lives via video, giving us an intimate look at their wedding, new life and unexpected baby news. Yes, the happy couple is expecting. Only problem is that baby is not Zach’s. During a night out solicited by a suspiciously friendly taxi driver (Roger Payano) on their honeymoon, Sam blacks out and is taken to a subterranean ceremony where she has been impregnated by the Devil. As we watch the couple prepare for the baby, we also see Sam change from a vibrant young woman to a sullen, short fused and voraciously hungry host to the demon seed. They are also being watched by shadowy figures, and Zach begins to notice the change as well as weird things happening in the house. Devil’s Due takes us on this couple’s journey to place where wedded bliss can’t rescue them.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. While, I didn’t read reviews, I saw the occasional 2-5 star rating here and there, and the general consensus that it was a bad film. I had no expectations, but the story held my attention. I liked that it was shot from the husband’s point of view, and the paranoia came from him instead of what we typically (and unfortunately) expect from the female characters. It was refreshing to see Sam’s character as the sinister one, succumbing to the evil she carried. I really felt for Zach and his growing concern for his wife, mixed with happiness and fear over her condition. It was an unknown that he tried to understand and support, with a supernatural complication that no father could expect.
One of the problems I had with the story was how they agreed to go along with the taxi driver, especially after a weird visit to the local psychic. It’s just common sense to be aware that the locals may not have your best interests in mind. And the dog. Are we to assume that Maverick, their golden retriever, was at doggy daycare when the watchers tended to their business in Zach and Sam’s home? Some pets will betray you by snuggling up to intruders, but I don’t recall seeing him when the watchers were mucking about the house. I should also point out that if you get motion sickness, you may not want to sit through this film. I found the shaky camera work to be distracting at first, but got used to it as I watched. It also annoyed me that Zach brought the camera everywhere. If he were my man, I would have dropped that camera in the toilet from the get-go. Sorry, but I don’t like my daily life filmed, especially when I’m having a meltdown.
I did like how the other p.o.v. cameras were incorporated when Zach wasn’t around or behind his camera. I was also pleased to see a diverse background cast! From church parishioners to Zach and Sam’s neighbours, visible minorities were a part of everyday life without being forced. And I loved the ending! I won’t give it away, but as a perpetually (happy) single person, I kind of snickered because it sticks it to traditional values that I have been criticized or pitied for not adopting.
Character wise, even though Rosemary and Sam were the expectant mothers and their experiences were somewhat similar, I thought Zach had more in common with Rosemary. They both had good instincts. They knew when something wasn’t right and stuck to their guns, even thought they cared about their spouses, and made sacrifices in order to work on the relationships. The major difference with husbands Guy and Zach was that Guy knew what was happening and why as well as being totally self absorbed, while Zach was in the dark until the end like Rosemary. I also felt that as a character, Sam got lost in the plot and became merely a device to present the demon birth.
It’s really interesting as I comment on the two films, how film has changed as a whole. Rosemary’s Baby has such style, such ambiance. It is said that Polanski wanted to make a classy horror film, and he succeeded. His use of suggestion and intrigue created a monumental paranoia that is hard to duplicate and the performances of the veteran cast projected the story to cult status. In contrast, Devil’s Due is a bare bones, sometimes sloppy, vision of the same subject, and although a seasoned horror fan may tire of the found footage genre, it seems appropriate for this age of reality based T.V., voyeurism and all its trappings. The sloppiness kept the audience guessing even though the plot was fairly obvious. Despite its appearance, it created a decent amount of dread and suspense and turned out to be a passable horror movie with a punch line ending.
In all truth, I don’t think it’s fair to compare these two films. They convey a similar storyline, but that’s as far as it goes. Devil’s Due is an entertaining film you should see on a Friday night; a film you may eventually forget once the hype dies down simply because this fledgling film doesn’t have a history, and the filming style may make potential viewers skip it. Rosemary’s Baby is an incredible book adaptation that even the original author held in high regard. It has stood the test of time, was directed by a master, and became a masterpiece. Both films take the mundane of everyday life and make it haunting and sinister, one with timeless finesse, the other with an in your face guerilla style point of view. But like most offspring, it’s not healthy to pit one against the other. There is another baby brewing as well, a remake of the iconic film for T.V. starring Zoe Saldana. Can’t say I’m thrilled at all. Does anyone remember the made for T.V. sequel Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby? Total ’70’s weirdness. Can we stop with the remakes already?! At least Devil’s Due didn’t claim to be a remake, because in this case, big sister Rosemary will always be the favourite child. So lay off people…it’s a hard act to follow!