Welcome to Film Swappers, where Chris and Branden force the other person to watch any movie of their choosing. The only rules are that the films chosen have to be ones that the other person hasn’t already seen, and they must be watched and reviewed.
Film Swappers #6
S&Man (2006) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
I never even heard of this movie, and thought Branden was recommending me some kinky little horror film. Hell, it took me forever to figure out what the title even was (“Sandman”, for those still struggling with it)! This meant that I really had no thoughts going in. I glanced at the plot outline on Netflix and assumed I would at least be watching a horror film.
Summary of Film
J.T. Perry, with author Carol Clover, who wrote Men, Women, and Chainsaws, takes us on a journey into horror in this documentary about the underground horror scene.
I’m a huge horror fan, but I have never been to a horror convention. So my knowledge of the underground horror scene is virtually non-existent, and, frankly, I was bored for the first part of this film. Yeah, I got to see lots of nudity, death, and blood, but out of context, it’s really not that interesting.
It’s nice that we get to see two of the more known directors of these films, and I liked learning about the voyeuristic themes of horror. It’s when we meet the director of the “S&Man” series that things take a turn toward the interesting.
Imagine a series where the viewer can submit any idea he wants, and then gets his nasty dream come true. Eric Rost finds a woman, and then asks her permission to stalk her. He follows that up with a fake kidnapping and killing to thrill the fans. It’s a very interesting idea and I could totally see a market for this kind of film.
Except this is also where the film goes haywire. The problem is that I just don’t know how to address it without spoiling anything. So be forewarned: if this film sounds interesting, and my score at the bottom seems good enough, then please, add it to your Netflix Instant Queue.
To read more detailed thoughts, and spoilers on the film’s final act, check out the next paragraph. If you want to avoid spoilers, be sure to skip it.
As Petty, the director, interacts with Roth, he begins to think he’s stumbled onto something: maybe Roth isn’t getting permission from these ladies at all, and is instead making snuff films for his clients. This is where the film lost me. While it’s a great idea, and works in theory, it makes the first half feel fake, when in fact, it is not. The unclear direction here is misleading to the viewer. I won’t ruin the end, but it’s important to note how drastically different the second half of the film is compared the first.
In the end I’d say S&Man is an interesting watch. I wasn’t all that thrilled with the knowledge I got from the underground horror guys because that isn’t my scene, but it does make you think a bit more about the horror movies we watch. Also noteworthy is the inclusion of the Peeping Tom clips because that movie is a classic, and it pretty much defined the genre when it was released.
This Film Swappers article has been about 8-months in the making, and it is entirely my fault. I just never got around to watching this film. When I first picked up the Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection, I misread the back of the box’s runtime listing, and thought the film was over three-hours in length, so I was not excited to jump in. Even after I realized my mistake (the film is just over two-hours, in reality), it took me a while to get to it. Rosemary’s Baby even made my list of 12 “Personal Cinefessions” that Chris, Ashe, and myself made a few months back.
I’ve heard tons about this movie, obviously, seeing as it is regarded as a horror classic, but I’ve been lucky enough to avoid any and all spoilers. I was really excited to hit play once I finally sat down to watch Rosemary’s Baby.
Summary of Film
The young, married couple of Rosemary and Guy move into a new apartment building that has some unique tenants. After an unexpected suicide by one of the neighbors, an elderly couple, Roman and Minnie, take a personal interest in their new, young neighbors. Rosemary is a little cold on the duo, but Guy immediately falls for Roman’s interesting stories. After a night of drinking, Rosemary gets pregnant. Odd, endless pains, and strange dreams make Rosemary think that more is going on than what appears, driving her to the brink of hysteria with her unborn baby.
Rosemary’s Baby is definitely a horror film, but there is almost nothing that is genuinely scary about it. Instead, the movie plays out more like a mystery than anything else. The audience is left asking the exact same question that Rosemary asks: what is real? This is the strongest part of the movie, and clearly what makes this a masterful piece of cinema.
Along with this riddle that writer/director Roman Polanski plays with his audience, he also manages to fit in a couple of truly disturbing images that only last for mere moments. It is the minimal way in which these flashes are used that makes them so powerful. Polanski shows restraint, and from that restraint, the art of the film flourishes.
Though the runtime is not felt – the two hours fly by because the story is so engaging – there are still moments that seem superfluous. For example, there is an instant after the couple moves into their new apartment, eating dinner on the floor to one solitary lamp, where they decide to make love. For no apparent reason, Polanski films the couple slowly removing all of their clothes, and then starting to make out. Guy ends the romantic tension with an odd joke about the building’s history, and the scene changes. I tried to find a reason for this extension as the movie continued, because cinematically speaking, it was an intriguing long take, but plot-wise, the whole thing was pointless. There are a couple of other similar moments, but this first one stands out the most.
Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes are on complete opposite sides of the spectrum, but both equally impressive. Cassavetes is a strong, powerful leading man filled with charisma and charm. Farrow, on the other hand, is a soft, small, innocent, but still absolutely beautiful woman. In an interview, there is made mention of the fact that Rosemary is described as a woman filled with “milk fat” (or something along those lines), and is much different in appearance than Farrow, but I cannot imagine this film working nearly as well without her. Farrow’s innocence makes everything going on around her more potent, and interesting to watch.
It’s also worth mentioning how absolutely goddamn perfect Ruth Gordon is as Minnie, the nosy, oddball, neighbor. She is everything one could ask for in a supporting role, and really helps make the movie whole. It’s clear why she won the Oscar (and Golden Globe) for best supporting actress, and is enough of a reason alone to recommend the film.
Rosemary’s Baby is an excellent lesson in how to build paranoia, scene by scene. Polanski manages to keep the viewer guessing from the moment the couple moves into the building, until the final revelatory scenes. The fact that I genuinely did not know how it was going to end up, or what would happen next, kept the movie clipping along. It’s a lot of fun to watch, and though the horror is light, it’s clear why it is considered a masterpiece in the genre, and it’s one that I can strongly recommend.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.