Adrian Woodhouse (Stephen McHattie), the illegitimate son of Rosemary and Beelzebub, is now fully grown and living the life of an opulent pop singer in Los Angeles. That is until mild-mannered devil worshippers Minnie and Roman Castevet (Ruth Gordon and Ray Miland) arrive in LA, armed with ulterior motives and the hope of seeing the son of Satan spawn demonic powers.
This little seen sequel to Rosemary’s Baby bypasses Ira Levin’s lacklustre literary follow-up “Son of Rosemary” and catches up with the characters from Polanski’s classic in a gauche and bumbling chase movie/ disco horror hybrid. Director Sam O’Steen, editor of Rosemary’s Baby, and writer Anthony Wilson (The Twilight Zone, Land of the Giants, Planet of the Apes) deliver a hotchpotch of awkwardly lumped together chase and dance sequences, festooned with ham acting, garish fashion, glitter balls and Satanic rituals. LWHTRB withers into a limp and hackneyed trinket throughout the first half but bounces back into a colourful calamity that lacks the artistry and finesse of Polanski’s original yet is far from a generic retread.
The set up, with the sub-title “The Book of Rosemary”, starts with a “previously on Rosemary’s Baby” style VO to remind viewers what went down at the end of the first film while cementing a permanent made-for-TV air. Rosemary (this time played by Patty Duke) escapes a Satanic sect with her now eight year old son Adrian and flees to LA in the hope of finding ex-husband Guy Woodhouse (George Maharis). The story then flits to the future (which still looks like 1976) for the second act, “The Book of Adrian”, where we meet “Rosemary’s Baby” as a precarious young man. Sadder than the fact that his father is a fallen angel, Adrian has grown into a vacuous rock star with hair the size of an atomic explosion and a black silk shirt, permanently half buttoned, exposing a bronze but thankfully medallion free chest.
Minnie and Roman Castevet re-enter Adrian’s life on the eve of his age non-specified birthday. Following another couple of rituals and bizarre dream sequences, LWHTRB then collapses once again, this time into a fuzzy, abstract disco horror, cut from a similar cloth as Brian De Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, Dracula A.D 1972 and Ken Russell’s Tommy, but is much less engaging. The scattershot plot almost completely evaporates throughout the second act before mutating into an almost experimental art film. Adrian dons white face paint and a black vest then struts across dance floors to discombobulated disco through oceans of sweaty boppers as the Castevets stare on as though hypnotised/ psychologically detached.
Phenomenally bad supporting performances are shocking considering the film features four Oscar winners but Stephen McHattie is decent in the lead. While some of the supernatural elements are pantomime/ ghost train trite (smoke emitting from a black teddy bear, glowing eyes, a self-driving bus), Satanic ceremony sequences/ chanting and a sinister, nursery rhyme-like child singing score, instil a slither of unease. LWHTRB is also often oddly, mildly entertaining due to tatty ticks, a few creepy moments and wincing humour but blasé, by-the-numbers dialogue and a punchy, yet patchwork, plot, cripple this sequel that is made moderately jolly by its intangible disco instrumentals. These would have seemed rather inappropriate given the Satanic plot context, but the gaudy tat factor injects welcome, involuntary comedy.
The only returning cast member from Polanski’s original is Ruth Gordon, who reprises her Oscar winning turn as Minnie in a robo/ de-motivated mode. Accompanied by Ray Miland (another Oscar winner) replacing Sidney Blackmoor as Roman, Minnie pursues an ignorant Adrian with a faux homicidal glint in her eye and that droning New York tenor. The last act slides into a pseudo conspiracy thriller/ brain washing terrain as Adrian is subjected to mind-dicing experiments in some kind of institute for the criminally insane. Eerie dream sequences cushion more pivotal moments but are nowhere near as potent as those in Polanski’s predecessor and LWHTRB resounds as an unsurprisingly forgotten follow-up, despite the fact that it’s more likely most people wouldn’t have even heard of it in the first place. O’Steen’s sequel may be awkward, inebriated, occasionally as fun as it sounds and worth a one off watch but it is best approached with extreme caution and the lowest possible expectations.
Words: Daniel Goodwin (@privateutopias)