Rosemary’s Baby 2: Son of Rosemary. Sounds like some new terrible movie sequel designed to destroy a classic right? Wrong! Ira Levin actually wrote a sequel to his famous horror novel, a fact that not many people know. I had actually been searching for a copy of this book for a while but it was out of print and difficult to track down, so it was a pleasant surprise when I walked into Border’s and saw it sitting on the shelf. I probably should have left it there.
Ira Levin was an amazing author, and I have had the pleasure of reading a few of his other works, Son of Rosemary was not nearly on par with the original, or even Levin’s classic satire, The Stepford Wives. Son of Rosemary was entertaining for sure, but the thirty years that passed between the original and the sequel are a definite hindrance, and it feels like a stale leftover, a half-assed attempt to return to the power of Levin’s older works.
Son of Rosemary takes place 26 years after the original, in the year 1999, and it follows the machinations of a now grown Andy (the eponymous Son for those of you who are unfamiliar with the story). The novel reads more like a spoof than it does horror, and it is even lacking most of the biting wit that Levin’s older satire had. What is meant to be dark and disturbing just comes off as awkward and gross. The multiple scenes where Andy tries to make out with, or even have sex with his mother are a perfect example. Rosemary merely brushes it off, and finds some flawed logic to justify the action, all the while I was just thinking that it was poorly done, and far too cliché, not to mention a little disgusting, and while disgusting has its place in horror, sometimes it harms more than it helps.
The best quality of the novel is how Levin keeps Andy’s true intentions veiled throughout the entirety of the story. Andy states that he wants to be a good man and that he has rejected his father (the Devil) and Rosemary believes him. However, the reader does not, and Levin plays that suspicion like a fiddle, revealing more and more layers underneath Andy’s benevolent appearance. There are anagrams and riddles, references and allegory, and the English-major side of me had a field day with them, so it can definitely be said that Levin had not lost his talent when he wrote Son of Rosemary, and considering it was the last novel he wrote, it definitely could have been worse.
The biggest issue I have with the novel is the ending. Now, I hate to spoil anything for anyone, but it just felt like a huge cop out to me, and it was a waste of what was shaping up to be a perfectly respectable novel. Basically, and again I am not going to post a lot of detail here, Levin uses the ridiculous “it was all a dream” ending to get the characters out of an impossible situation. Now yes, I admit that there is room for interpretation and all that jazz, but still, to me that kind of ending is a cheat and I cannot stand it when authors use it. That’s what bad television is for, not what I expect from one of the better horror authors in recent history.
All in all, most people don’t even know there is a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby, and quite frankly it is just fine with me if it stays that way. If you’re a die-hard Levin fan (boy do I feel bad for knocking a dead guy), or you just HAVE to know what happens after the original, then go pick up the re-issue, but I still say there are much better ways to spend your time, and much better stories to be read.