Rose Red has an interesting history as it was conceptualized as a feature-length film to be directed by Steven Spielberg. But as the two had different visions for the project, the two parted ways with King buying back the rights. Eventually Mark Carliner, who had worked with King previously produced The Shining and The Storm of the Century, agreed to produce it. King was set to make script revisions, but after his unfortunate accident in 1999, he set is as a mini-series instead, using the writing as a form of therapy. Filming began in 2000 with Craig A. Baxley directing.
Rose Red follows Dr. Joyce Reardon (Nancy Travis), who assembles a team of psychics to study the famously haunted house Rose Red now thought to be a dead cell. Her team includes Cathy Kramer (Judith Ivey), Emery Waterman (Matt Ross), Nick Hardaway (Julian Sands), Pam Asbury (Emily Deschannel), Victor Kandinsky (Kevin Tighe), Annie Wheaton (Kimberly J. Brown) as well as Annie’s sister/sitter Racheal (Melanie Lynskey) and the house’s current owner and last surviving descendant of the original owners, Steve Rimbauer (Matt Keeslar). Reardon faces personal challenges at work due the project, from her associate Dr. Carl Miller (David Dukes) and his toady Kevin Bollinger (Jimmi Simpson) to the point where it has cost her, her tenure. But once the group enters the home it becomes clear that the house was never a dead cell, but merely dormant and the new abundance of psychic energy has reinvigorated it and the host of malicious spirits that dwell within it. The group becomes locked in by the house as its sets it sights on killing them one at a time.
I love the simplicity of this story, it’s a strong part of why I’m so drawn to it. As Rose Red is among my favorite TV mini-series along with The Stand and Storm of the Century. The simple plot allows for a great amount of the house back story to be explored as well as a large amount of character development. Many of the characters having very clear and defined arcs over the course of the series.
As odd as it may seem, my favorite character, aside from the house that is, is the character of Emery Waterman. He’s a snively, whiner and his character is meant to be grating. But he’s the most realistic in his reaction to the houses motives once they’re discovered. He starts off as a weak character, bound to his smothering mother. But over the course of the film he shows plenty of courage and defeats his own personal demons showing the most marked growth out of all the survivors.
The house is the main attraction of the series. With it’s incredibly lush sets and warm, inviting tones you could almost forget that this house love to murder people. I like that it’s hard to tell if the house controls the ghosts or if they are warped by house, becoming twisted mockeries of their former selves. The sets were so large that some of the cast actually became lost while filming.
Final thought, while not as well acted as The Stand it commands a different kind of presence that makes it hard to compare the two. Not to say the acting isn’t good, because it is just not as broadly across the board. The effects haven’t aged well (if they ever looked good to begin with) but they adequately server their purpose. The deep history of the house that gets revealed a small piece at a time are my favorite parts. My main gripe is that it does drag in place with it almost loosing my attention. But it manages to keep up a fast enough pace that it doesn’t become outright boring. So Rose Red gets an objective(ish) score of 6/10.
As a side note Jimmi Simpson and Melanie Lynskey meet on set, fell in love and eventually got married. While sadly David Dukes died from a heart attack while filming, hence why the series is dedicated to his memory.