Rose Red (2002)
Director: Craig R. Baxley
Kimberly J. Brown/Annie
Frizzle-haired University psychology professor Joyce (Travis) wants recorded proof of the paranormal. So she recruits a varied group of psychics to spend some time with her in a haunted mansion named “Rose Red”. Our merry gang enters the spook crib and yes, mucho ghostly shite goes down.
This haunted house jamboree which originally aired as a mini-series on ABC runs a little bit over 4 hours. I viewed the whole thing in one sitting and the fact that I didn’t hit any Zs or set my DVD player on fire means one thing: I had fun.
The main element that kept my eyes on Rose Red was without a doubt its astounding visuals and its inventive horror scenarios. The film sports an extremely impressive setting and the horror possibilities are milked for all they’re worth. I was blown away by the house’s architecture, its many unique trippy rooms and the digital effects that amplified their overall look. The people behind the visual tricks truly succeeded in credibly interpreting King’s wild imagination to the screen. The infinite spiral stair cases, the wall that flies off, the statue that comes to life (brrr), the mirrored room that turns into a pool (wow), the upside down room, the zany hallway…all very well done. Props to the special effect dudes! The quality also transcended to the execution of the ghostly apparitions and the many ghouls that populate the film. They’re designs are dead on and are played for scares. At times they gave me the freaking jeepers-creepers. Thanks guys!
Character wise, the amazing cast really helped make the movie more gripping. All of the actors should get a pat on the back (and a few on the ass) for a job well done. The downside though is that the script isn’t always up to par with the talent. Some of the early dialogue felt awkward, the script has a tendency to dispose of some characters too fast (what happened to Pam, I dug her), to ignore others for a long period of time (Joyce disappeared there for a while) and it doesn’t go deep enough in regards to some of them (who was Nick…I know he’s suave and shite but really…who was he?). Taking into account the lengthy running time, the screenplay snags in regard to the players were hard to forgive. On a positive note, where the script failed, the strong performers usually made up for it, so I still wound up being engaged on a “character” level. Julian Sands (Nick) for example brought lots of humor to his thinly written part and in consequence I cared a lot about the slick hombre. What a great man!
Narrative wise, I really dove into the story and appreciated the extensive exploration of the house’s back-story via flashbacks. I dug the period scenes, the tale they conveyed, the gorgeous costumes and the attention to details. Also knowing more about the haunted pad’s twisted history made me fear it more in the present day sequences. Good move King! On a negative note, King often resorts to clichéd subplots to fill other corners of the movie; unfortunately for me those types of tired subplots get on my damn nerves. You know how it goes, the overly bitter teacher sends in a cocky journalist to foil the other teacher’s research (boring…), or one character’s over the top cartoon like mom can’t seem to check out already. What was the point of that yapping banshee again? Apart from annoying the shit out of me, I still don’t know.
You would also think that a writer (Stephen King) that’s been working in the genre for a while, would be able to write a haunted house script that avoids the common pitfalls of the subgenre. Wrong! Even though people have died and ghosts have manifested themselves strongly, folks still wander alone and still feel the need to “investigate” that strange apparition/sound (bunch of dumbs-dumbs). King even goes as far as having two of its “heroes” tie up some pestering gal in the kitchen and leaving her there, knowing full well that she’ll probably be eaten alive by the the nasty spirits. I still don’t get that one. Why didn’t they just drag her in the living room with the others? The lame excuse they gave wasn’t enough. That was cruel and out of character.
Having said all that Rose Red still came through; even with its screenplay flaws. Sure it’s far from original (House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting, The Legend Of Hell House anyone?) but the film goes further than those puppies in terms of imagination. I’ve also never seen EVERY single haunted house cliché ever written compacted in one movie. It made for a hefty meal that I digested very well. Tag to that it’s multitude of horrific action, its endearing performances, its mad special effects, its inventive sets and it’s efficient directing and you get some groovy times in the house. Let's crash this party!
Not too much of that here but we get enough displays of eerie shite to keep our appetite satisfied. We get lots of ghouls (that kind of look like the Crypt Keeper at times), we get a blood drenched fridge, cut off fingers and even more ghouls.
Nancy Travis (Joyce) does very well with her mentally unstable part, she’s actually the scariest thing in this film. Matt Keeslar (Steven) underplays it and it works! Kimberly J. Brown (Annie) gives a very credible performance as the young psychic. Judith Ivery (Cathy) also downplays it and winds up being very likeable. Melanie Lindskey (Rachel) plays her character to a T but the script made her annoying at times (how many times is she gonna tell her sis to NOT touch something…ugh) Even though Matt Ross (Emery) does have some very witty moments, his character grated me most of the time. He plays his part well but I just loathed whom he played. Can you have more charismatic than Julian Sands (Nick)? I THINK NOT! The man takes a paper think part and makes him super interesting. I LOVE THIS GUY! Emily Deschanel (Pam) is hot, talented and underused.
T & A
We get Jack Tracy (which means…NATHING!)
I know Craig R. Baxley for his two cheesy gems “I Come In Peace” and “Stone Cold”…both guilty pleasures of mine. I haven’t seen “Storm Of The Century” so I was really impressed at how he tackled this horror material. It’s fairly more mature than what I’ve seen him work on before. Baxley is on the move with his camera, showcasing an array of impressive shots often and for a TV movie, I was very impressed. He also managed to inject lots of morbid atmosphere and he tackles his suspense sequences very well. Nice job duder!
The score fits the chilling images it backs up and never gets overbearing. Good stuff!
Distributed By: Trimark Home Entertainment
IMAGE: The 1.85:1 Anamorphic Full Screen image is stunning and sharp. The colors leap off the screen.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 has quite a range and all the various levels of sounds from score to noises are impeccably delivered. We also get a French and a Spanish Dolby 5.1 option.
Production Commentary: Director Craig Baxley, costume designer Craig Sterns and special effects supervisor Stuart Robertson all come in to talk shop. Surprisingly they last for the whole four hours! WOW! Rose Red now runs a little over four hours. Baxley gives us some insight on the production and sends out lots of love to his actors. Sterns addressed the period costumes and how important it was for him for them to come across as genuine. And Robertson discusses the various effects, how hey were done and what he wanted to accomplish. Overall a solid commentary.
Storyboards: Here we get 3 individual scenes that we can play while the “storyboards” for unravel at the same time. Its always fun to compare what was planned and what wound up on the screen. You can have the scenes play one at a time or in montage motif. This feature is aight.
The Making of Rose Red: This 50 minutes feature offers us some on set footage, comments from some of the cast about the film and their characters, the director gives us his two cents on the production, King steps in to tell us what he wanted to accomplish and how the project came about. The death of actor David Dukes and the score are also addressed. Most of the running time though is focused on the design and building of the house sets and how the various visual effects were accomplished.
Unlocking Rose Red- The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: Ellen Rimbauer is the main ghost in the film Rose Red and this false 30 minutes documentary explores her story while commenting on her husband and the house. Fun stuff if you haven’t seen the film, I recommend you watch it beforehand. But watching after wards didn’t bring me much since I knew most of the info through the film.
We also get an Artwork Gallery. Overall this is a quality disk that fans of the flick SHOULD get.
Yes, King does rip himself off here by slapping in lots of "The Shining" and "Carrie"-like elements, but at least he rips off his better work (no Thinner homage here). Rose Red is a big winner on a technical level. You know the feel you get when you walk through one of those amusement park haunted houses? Well I felt the same vibe here. Sure it could’ve been tighter in terms of character development and the script did need a few tune ups, but the charming cast and the abundance of gnarly horror get downs pretty made much made up for the shortcomings. This is what The Haunting remake should’ve been. If you’ve had a good night’s sleep (4 hours is a loooooong time) and the hangover isn’t too bad, visit Rose Red, she’ll put a fiendish smile on your sour puss.
Rose Red is loosely based on the novel "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson.
Actor David Dukes died of a heart attack during the shoot.
The film has an X-Files reference. One character says “The Truth Is Out There”.
Stephen King has a cameo as a pizza guy.