I was hoping for Rose Red to be worse than it was. There’s a special feeling I get when I’m watching a particular Stephen King miniseries. You can watch King’s film adaptations like The Shining or The Running Man and have a legitimately good time, but it’s something else entirely to watch a King miniseries like The Tommyknockers or It, which are goofy, unhinged, and often unintentionally hilarious. They’re not good, but they’re incredibly entertaining. That’s not to say that every miniseries that King has ever written for is terrible. I just prefer the bad ones because the bad ones are better than the good ones if that makes sense. Rose Red isn’t very bad or good, however. It’s not a well-made product that you appreciate more as time goes by, like The Shawshank Redemption, but it’s not an idiotic train wreck like The Langoliers. It’s somewhere in the middle, containing none of the benefits of either extreme.
Rose Red serves as a loose remake of The Haunting, according to King, right down to the spooky concept of a house that was “born bad.” It concerns an old haunted mansion in Seattle called Rose Red under investigation by a university parapsychology professor named Joyce Reardon (Nancy Travis). Built on Native American burial ground (because this is Stephen King, of course it was) in 1906, the house has multiple instances of paranormal activity to its name, including the disappearance and deaths of at least twenty-three people. Joyce believes the house lies dormant due to a lack of victims in recent years and leads a group of psychics (again, because OF COURSE there are) to probe the house with their abilities to scientifically prove the existence of the paranormal. In essence, the house is a sleeping bear, and the psychics are a pair of giant cymbals. This will go swimmingly, I’m sure.
Thornewood Castle, the estate in Lakewood that King used for Rose Red, was a decent choice for a haunted house. The cinematography gives us a good view of the houses’ foreboding scale and reach from both the inside and out, and the spooky sets in the estate evoke an adequate amount of dread and uncomfortableness. It gets a passing grade for its well chosen filming location, but as far as haunted house stories go, Rose Red‘s story is fairly stock. The characters serve their established purposes but are generally flavorless, the special effects vary from passable to dated, and the acting, befitting a Stephen King miniseries, ranges from poor to awkwardly nutty. The weird and over-the-top performances are good for a laugh, but you also have to deal with a metric ton of exposition scattered throughout the miniseries four-hour runtime. Some of the exposition is necessary, but at a certain point, it feels like they’re telling us too much, or worse, trying to waste time. As is, it has no business being as long as it is, and nothing in the script is going to challenge you with its mediocre scares and twists. There are a couple of ideas that got thrown my way that I thought were fun, like the house having an inconsistent interior or the fact that the house dispatches of their victims in specific ways depending on their gender. Men end up dead, and the women simply disappear. But these ideas are only a small part of an overlong and largely forgettable ghost story that has no desire to be anything more than that. And for something written by Stephen King and inspired by The Haunting, that’s a big disappointment.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.