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Rose Red

Reviewed By Brian McKay
Posted 08/17/02 20:58:17

"Stephen King, I officially wipe my ass of you."
1 stars (Total Crap)

It's a sad thing when a once great horror writer starts phoning it in for a paycheck. Why come up with something even quasi-original, when you can pillage from Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, and a few of your own classic stories and puke up something like "Rose Red"?

There is nothing original about "Rose Red". I could handle a lack of originality, if there was at least somehting stylistic and intriguing about the approach taken. All this is, however, is a paint by numbers haunted house story that has been bloated all out of proportion to the preposterous running length of four and a half hours. Begging, borrowing, and outright stealing from older, better tales, "Rose Red" is the story of a haunted house, and the team of psychic investigators who go to explore it, led by a scientist trying to find "proof of the unproveable". Sound familiar? It should. We've only seen it a million fucking times in stories like "the Haunting of Hill House" and its shitty remake, not to mention "The Legend of Hell House", "The House on Haunted Hill", and a slew of other ghostbusting movies.

Apparently inspired by the famous Winchester House in San Jose, California, Rose Red is an eternal work in progress. The woman who owned it kept adding on to it with her dead husband's fortune, building all kinds of freaky rooms and halls that go nowhere. Now the place is haunted and seems to change on its own, often making the inhabitants become quickly lost. Okay, a haunted house story based on the Winchester mansion isn't the worst thing I've heard of - until you add a woefully inept cast, equally horrid dialogue, and a connect the dots ghost story with nary an unpredictable turn.

The scientist leading this little expedition is Dr. Joyce Reardon. She's an incredibly annoying and hollow woman, played by an equally annoying Nancy Travis. Thank you, Nancy, for giving me an actress to loathe even more than Julia Roberts. Roberts, for all her annoying traits, can at least ACT. Travis is so ridiculously stilted and over the top, she loses any chance at credibility in the first five minutes. It doesn't help that she's boffing the studly young guy who happens to be the last surviving family member to hold the title to Rose Red. Again, not much good for her credibility, but I guess it makes it easier for her to get her hands on a set of spare keys. Even worse than her, however, is David Dukes as the colleague who is trying to get her discredited. Add to that a cast of characters who are either painfully bland or nails-on-blackboard annoying, and you've got a recipe for for hours of torment. I've seen better acting at a community theater play that was held after hours in the dining room of a sandwhich shop - I kid you not! Congrats also go to Matt Ross, who plays "Emery" - the Haagen-Daas gulping, mouth-breathing, hen-pecked mamma's boy psychic. I have no idea what kind of acting chops Mr. Ross really has, but goddamn if he didn't deliver up the single most annoying fucking character - EVER. Between him and his fat, domineering Kathy Bates wannabe mama, I was praying for both of them to die slowly and painfully. No such luck, he survives.

(And don't whine to me about giving out a spoiler. Do you really want to sit through this piece of shit after all the smack I've been talking about it? You do? well FUCK YOU then, because you and this movie deserve each other.)

About the only characters that evoke any sympathy at all are Annie, a very cute 14 year old autistic girl with psychokinetic abilities, and Sissy, her also-cute older sister and guardian. I think I like them the most only because they talk the least. Meanwhile, you have Judith Ivey as the milquetoast Born Again psychic Christian, and Julian Sands once again proving that he is the blandest fucking Brit on the planet.

As for all of the scenery and effects - The house looks completely fake against the Seattle city background. Everything in the movie looks like a set, nothing feels "real". Unlike Hill House, or Hell House, or The Overlook Hotel, the place has no personality. And what's so scary about a house next to a freeway in the middle of the city, anyway? Steve, have you forgotten "The Shining", man? Location, location, location! Haunted houses are supposed to be out in the fucking boonies, so you can't run anywhere for help. Then, just to make sure we get the point that it's haunted, we have to hear this annoying multitude of voices whispering every 10 seconds. OKAY, STEVE, THE HOUSE IS HAUNTED. WE GET IT. But the worst part are the ghosts themselves. First rule of decent horror films - try not to let the audience actually "see" the ghosts. Second rule - if you have to let them see the ghosts, at least make sure the ghosts are SCARY. These animatronic corpses with buggy eyes and rictus grins are so stiff and fake-looking that they make the puppet on "Tales from the Crypt" look like the kid in A.I. by comparison. My God, it's such a long and painful parade of shameful cliches. Is this what has become of the Master? Is this what the genius behind "The Shining" and "The Stand" has been reduced to?

Thank God for the occasional indie horror films that have no budget and are made with nothing but balls and imagination. After watching "Rose Red", I feel like I've been neutered and given a lobotomy.

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