Rose Red (2002)

Directed by Craig R. Baxley

In the special features, Stephen King mentions how a TV mini-series lends itself more to his writing style, which is digressive and a bit rambling. (Not a bad thing as anyone who has read 19th century Russian novelists knows.) While this could be a strength, in Rose Red it is not. The result of the rambling style here is lack of focus resulting in confusion. The personality of certain characters seems to change as if they are bi-polar or at least prone to unexplained mood swings. Even the house seems not quite sure of its personality.

Take, for example, the character of Dr. Joyce Reardon (played by Nancy Travis). In the first part of Rose Red she is the eager heroine. In the second part, she’s a scientific twit. In the third, she’s the villain. I hope she was paid for playing three roles since that’s what the filmmakers had her do.

Part of the reason for this, I think, is an unhealthy desire to make the greatest haunted house story ever. Give me a break. Whenever artists attempt to do something like this (the ghost story to end all ghost stories, or some such thing), they usually end up with a hodge podge of clichés, as happens in Rose Red. The focus is on the genre, not on the characters.

The real frustration with Rose Red is that there are so many good ideas in it, particularly the notion of a house that keeps on growing. In the hands of Stephen King, however, it’s simply a neat idea that is never developed.

Rose Red tries to articulate the best of a number of haunted house themes, scenes, ideas and so on. But because this is all it does, simply attempt to recapitulate rather than become a ghost story that stands on its own, it dissolves quickly into a series of poorly connected scenes that bear some similarity to things you’ve seen many times before, and usually done much better.

Rather than become the greatest haunted house story ever, Rose Red is just a poor cousin. That being said, if you like these kinds of stories this one is enjoyable. But it’s not great and in a number of cases is disappointing.

The original version of The Haunting stills stands as the best ever. The remake done a few years ago (1999) is also better than Rose Red, and the other classic, The Legend of Hell House, also stands far above Rose Red. I recommend all three, especially if you want to see the kind of movie Rose Red hoped it would be.

© 2002 Piddleville Inc.

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