Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Rose Red (2002)
Rose Red - Some Stories Are Born Clichéd
Stephen King movie adaptions have become quite a conundrum. He has lambasted most of them for altering characters and flow. Most notable: Stanley Kubrick's version of The Shining. King purists stick to the argument that the phenomena and events he describes simply cannot be captured visually. Rose Red represents ABC's latest attempt at the horror master's work. Scripted and executive produced by King, it's more ironic than terrifying; the only example I've seen where the movie's shortcomings originate from Stephen King's story rather than the production values or casting. The three part mini-series revolves around a haunted house, called Rose Red, in Seattle. Built in the early twentieth century by a wealthy oil-baron as a wedding gift to his wife, death and mystery were associated with the home since its birth. Women disappeared and men were found dead due to apparent suicides. The wife, Ellen Rimbauer, continued building until she vanished within the maze of halls and staircases. Over time the Rimbauer house fell into disrepair, but continued to grow on its own. Enter Dr. Joyce Reardon (Nancy Travis), a pretty college professor eager to prove the existence of paranormal phenomena. She is transfixed on the place. `It's a dead cell. We need to wake it up.' Since no one has been there for years, the good professor signs up a rag-tag group of psychics and clairvoyants, each with their own special gift, to spend Memorial Day weekend there. The one she is most interested in is a young autistic girl who can supposedly summon boulders that fall from the sky. Her older sister wants to get her into a special school, but alas no money. And so it goes, under similar circumstances anyway, for the rest of the team; leading them to take the money and risk their lives. Right from the introductions we know where the story is headed, but most surprising is how familiar it all is. The group has the exact same people as in King's The Langoliers. You have the suave European. The troubled little psychic girl with an illness (autism instead of blindness). The kindly old man with a secret. And of course the completely unlikable dweeb who starts sweating and going nuts the moment they reach the front gate. Other in-jokes or cheap rehashes include the pompous supervisor who doesn't trust anybody (ala The Shining's Stuart Ullman) and the out-of-her-head big woman (`You're just a lying dirty birdie!'). The latter is a bit thinly veiled, but King on the whole just comes up short. It's obvious who is going to die, who is going to live, and what each of them has to face. I wanted to believe that all of these were in-jokes, but they appear to be serious.
Nancy Travis walks us through the history one step at a time. We watch as a builder guns down the construction foreman. A sheet of glass decapitates another builder. One more chokes on a piece of apple. An old woman on a tour disappears and the cops only find her handbag. A business man is found stung to death in the solarium. Got the idea yet? They become so repetitive that we're left shaking our heads and saying `I know the house is bad already.' In fact most of Part I is dedicated solely to revealing the house's past. Why hint when there's 270 minutes to fill? Therein lays Rose Red's biggest problem. King shows us everything. Scenes are broken up awkwardly, forcing the viewer to keep track of up to four things (some fantasy and some reality) going on simultaneously. Then when matters quiet down the group completely ignores what's happened. The first paranormal event takes place just after they enter. Time passes. They forget. In Part III King seemed to have made a game of having the characters make the worst possible horror movie decisions. `Going off by himself, that was dumb.' The dweeb comments at one point. Uh huh! As always King throws in one of his trademark weapons. He's used an oversized croquet mallet for The Shining, an axe for Misery (yes, in the movie it was changed), a hammer in Needful Things, a scalpel in Pet Sematary. The list goes on. But what do we get this time around? What does the master of horror pull out for Rose Red? A hammer. Pardon my yawn. As usual, King makes a Hitchcock-esque appearance as a delivery man. Most of his past cameos have been limited to peripheral characters. A band leader. A priest. Just someone in the background. Here he is so obvious that it pulls you out of the movie. Real actors and actresses for two hours, then a deathly pale guy wearing glasses and holding a pizza bag. `Oooo look! That's the writer.' Rose Red does have its good points. The casting is solid all around. Nancy Travis comes off as likeable but driven. Her boyfriend, Steve (Matt Keeslar), is fine too. Fans of the Warlock movie series will even enjoy the presence of Julian Sands as Nick Hardaway, the gentleman psychic. (Will this guy ever live through any movie he's in?) They do their best with the script. Usually that entails just falling into one emotion and sticking with it; let the special effects and set designs do the motivating.
Its here that Rose Red shines. (Hint, hint - Nudge nudge) The shear grandeur of the house and the halls carry the emotions of the movie. One room, the gigantic library with a mirrored floor, is incredible to look at. Even the recent big-budget remake of The Haunting didn't have anything close to this. The CGI effects are overall high grade too, save for a few cheap overhead shots. The home, covered with vines and surrounded by untended trees, is beautiful, in that gothic house sort of way. Spark shooting lights and ghastly talking corpses are abound everywhere. Turn of the century Seattle is shown, carts, buggies, the whole shebang. Glass turns to liquid. Creatures walk out of walls. But with all the razzle dazzle, what happened to the plot? It went M.I.A. My personal opinion is that King's energy ran out after he completed the history portion. Maybe he didn't know where it should go after that. The modern day situation just isn't compelling enough. Once everybody is assembled within the mansion's walls it's the same fare previously seen in The Shining, but with the ensemble dynamic of The Langoliers. The problem here is the occupants are aware, or should be, of what the place is capable of, while the Torrence family were innocents. On top of his own self-plagiarism, King throws on visual elements stolen from The Frightners and House on Haunted Hill. It then builds to a climax that feels as if King just said `Ah, the hell with it'. The lights go out. The floor shakes. People get attacked by boogie men. The doors magically open in the chaos with very little time to escape. Who will make it? The real question is: Do we care? Still out of all this I cannot find fault with the direction or presentation. It's pulp, an experiment in mood, but dreaming to be more. The mini-series becomes a collage of all the stuff that should make a great horror movie, even a great Stephen King horror movie, but collapses.
The house Rose Red has a lot to it. Stairways that go nowhere. Doors that open to brick walls. Rooms that change when you're not paying attention. But such is the plot: Interesting to look at, but built with no reason of purpose. At one moment you're sure it's a haunted house movie, then it's a ghost movie, then zombies, and then something else. There simply isn't an intelligible way through the mess. Looking back, it's easy to recall images; flashes of things taking place. But why did they happen? That's up to your imagination. Quite possibly, the only thing about Rose Red that is.
Not for fans of the original
I just have to voice my opinion on this new remake of Psycho. It may not be a half-assed attempt to take the idea of a Hitchcock film and turn it into something more contemporary (Rear Window, A Perfect Murder), but its decisions on where to pay homage to the original and where to embark on its own decisions make the movie more choppy and awkward than it should have been. The thing I liked about the original, and still do over the new version, is that Norman Bates' character had a boyish innocence to it. Vince Vaughn turns the character into an overly moody, and somewhat agresive geek. He doesn't even seem to believe his own lines. I can't blame him totally for his off target performance since the lines, written to sound normal and like "small-talk" in the 60's, sound too strange and pointless. "Twelve cabins, twelve vancancies." is said by Vaughn like a simple minded little boy, while Perkins actually dilivered it sounding natural and like an everyday sort of comment. The script needed more than the very few touch-ups that were applied to better explain a small amount of the points in the movie. Van Sant just couldn't decide if he was actually trying to remake the original shot-for-shot (it is up to the shower scene), or turn it into a newer story more set in today's world. My final gripe with Van Sant's version is Anne Heche. She seemed like a resonable choice for Janet Leigh's role, but she comes off stupid and like she really isn't thinking at all. Van Sant can't even pick good times to poke fun at the original. Heche's outfits for the movie are downright outrageous, and distracting. They draw so much attention to themselves that you forget that there is a story going on. I cringed thinking of the original when she pulled out an umbrella that looked like a big bright version of a decoration for a drink in a bar. The only thing that I can commend Van Sant for is that he has brought Psycho to a new generation, that although may not appreciate or have seen the original, can find a good shock from the story. It actually could have been a good film if Van Sant had decided what kind of movie he wanted to make. The new version is definitely NOT for film buffs or fans of the original Hitchcock version. However for those who can't stand the idea of watching actors from a different time or a film shot in black & white, this is a movie you should definitely see.