Rosemary’s Baby is arguably a perfect film; it stands to reason that Stewart Thorndike’s low-budget lesbian riff on Polanski’s classic would fall short of its source material. Her adaptation, Lyle, doesn’t follow Rosemary’s Baby to the letter – the couple is composed of two women, they already have a child when they move into a creepy apartment, the Satanic elements aren’t as explicit – but it certainly channels its essence of powerless parental anxiety.
There’s a lot that Lyle does wrong, and most of it can be blamed on its micro-budget. Horror relies on creating and sustaining atmosphere and numerous technical shortcomings – including inconsistent lighting and glaring consistency errors – tend to sabotage its mood. The writing can puncture the atmosphere as well, with an occasionally clumsy emphasis on exposition (explained by the film’s sub-70 minute runtime).
These flaws are redeemed somewhat by Thorndike’s perspective and knack for composition – a good shot is a good shot, regardless of technical issues. But Lyle’s real secret weapon is Gaby Hoffmann, who gives a fearless performance in the Mia Farrow role. She veers towards hysteria as she realises that her paranoiac anxieties are rooted in truth but never topples into farce, singlehandedly justifying the film’s existence.