15 years of Rose Red. A Memorial Weekend tradition!
Like so many others, Stephen King was a big part of my childhood growing up. My late mother, who was a avid fan basically brought my sister and I up on his amazing dark storytelling. I have vivid memories of her telling me about the latest books of his she just read, and of course enjoying his films, and being completely terrified and amazed by his mini-series. There was IT, which I believe completely took years off my life whenever I would see Pennywise pop up from the sewer. (The novel later on became one of my all time favorites.) The epic otherwise known as The Stand (one of his best novels) was a film that was constantly played in my house. In fact, you basically had to devote a day to viewing this movie in it's entirety. A few years later there was the strange and unusual The Langoliers, and another great mini series Storm Of The Century, which I still remember staying up late watching with my sister on her 13th birthday. Well, around 2002 when I was in middle school, buzz began going about that Stephen King was making the ultimate haunted house movie and it was by the same director as Storm Of The Century. Seeing constant ads running for this massive event, it was of course the talk among all of us during MCAS Prep in the 7th grade. Everyone knew Stephen King was the master of horror, and another huge TV event airing on ABC seemed to have enough build up to make anyone excited.
I still remember originally missing it when it aired. A few months later my mother rented Critters, and Rose Red at our local video store just a few years before it went out of business. Instantly I knew this was exactly the type of movie I would love. With the beautiful setting of Seattle, the all star cast, the haunting score, the likable characters, the amazing effects, and of course the rich backstory surrounding this beyond stunning house. It devastates me that this wasn't actually a real mansion. Based loosely off the Winchester Mansion, Rose Red became a character itself, and of course made me chuckle when years later down the line when I listened to the commentary, when I heard the director mention that several people contacted him wanting to buy the house, having no idea that it was actually a house and the wide shots of it sitting in the middle of downtown Seattle were digital! Haunted house stories have always sparked my interest, one of my all time favorites is the 1970's supernatural film Burnt Offerings were you yet again feel as if the house is a living breathing being. This was what Rose Red was. Instead of being a run down creepy mansion, the house was actually gorgeous. I loved how it was written that nobody could quite count how many rooms the house had exactly, and that once woken up it would actually change itself (another nod to such films like The Haunting, and Burnt Offerings) and continue to build itself by the owner's spirit who was originally told if she continued to build the house she would never truly die. This takes nods to such films like again The Haunting, and yes even Puppet Master where we round up a group of psychics ranging with all different talents by a professor who has put everything on the line to prove that this house is in fact haunted. A location she's been obsessed with most of her life and has put her career in danger to finally prove her theories are in fact true. With time running out since the house which was originally built at the turn of the century is set to be destroyed in a few months to make way for condos, the professor rounds up these psychics to wake the house up. You see Rose Red is abandoned, and after the disappearance of yet another person years ago during a tour, the house was shut down for good. With no energy to feed off of, the house became a dead cell, needing new energy aka life to wake itself up.
The professor ends up hiring seven psychics, one of which is a young autistic girl who is the most powerful of all. She's the key to actually wake the house up.
What I loved of course was yet again King's focus on children that hold dangerous and wonderful power (Carrie, Firestarter, IT, ect.) This little girl, Annie is brought in and right away the house starts to wake up with vengeful spirits ready to tango.
What makes Rose Red so wonderful are three things. The first is the rich backstory I mentioned. Here we learn of Ellen Rimbauer, the owner of Rose Red which was built for her by her oil tycoon husband John. We learn how right from the start the house seemed to be cured even back when it was in the early days of construction. How a man choked to death on site, another was killed by falling glass, and another blacked out and shot another man later claiming he had zero memory of even doing so. We hear about Ellen mostly by the professor's stories to the team via flashbacks. (Gotta hand it to that actress, great voice for storytelling.) and we see how Ellen was married off very young to her husband who was almost twenty years her senior. How while on a year long honeymoon she became very ill (hinted at being a sexual transmitted illness due to her husband's sexual appetite.) while suffering from a horrible fever, she's nursed back to health by a nurse named Sukeena in Africa who she later brings back home with her. Here we learn that Sukeena becomes her friend, delivering both of her children, and becoming her companion and hinted (and basically said flat on if you read the book of Ellen's Diary) lover. These two characters were written very well. I love how the professor states that in Ellen's Diary she never once refers to Sukeena as her servant. First as her friend, and then her sister. We learn that John was one of the richest men in the country at the time, and built this mansion for Ellen, never knowing the house would never be finished in her lifetime or his. After giving her husband two children, a boy, and a young girl with a withered arm named April, Ellen has served her duty as a wife and is allowed to go about life as she pleases while her husband carries on very open affairs, being referred as a mean spirited abusive man. After speaking with a psychic, fearing her fever that has returned off and on for years, she's told that she'll never die if she continues building the house. That it will never be finished until she says so. She takes this warning seriously since her fever never returns. Right away she begins construction on the house, allowed to spend as much money as she wanted. Over the years even Sukeena helped her design the house. Trick doorways, upside down rooms, a mirrored floor library, never ending hallways, a beautiful indoor garden, towers, and much, much more. These sets are truly amazing with the huge attention to detail. I legit wish this was such a house, it was breathtaking, and beautiful.
Well after Ellen's daughter disappears and is never seen or heard from again, Ellen is convinced it was the house that took her. Over the years Rose Red seems to "eat" women who enter the house, causing them to disappear out of thin air, and men to land up dead in a series of freak accidents. We're shown that even John's business partner came to the house to kill himself, that years later a famous 1920's silent film actress disappeared never to be seen from again, and worse. Dismissed as accidents, the house gains it's reputation, and after John mysteriously falls from one of the house's towers, Ellen makes sure that even after her death the house would continue to be built. It wasn't until years later when Ellen was an old woman that she disappeared and was never seen from again when a maid saw her walking down a hallway.
Here we meet the psychics as they learn more and more about this house and spend Memorial Day Weekend where being paid by the professor to investigate the house. Of course as said above the young girl Annie is the key and almost instantly the house begins to wake up, and it's not happy.
I could legit go on and on about this movie, but without fail this weekend I plan on celebrating in style with a tradition I've carried out for years. Here I re-watch this mini-series, falling in love with it all over again. This year is extra special since it's been 15 years since it originally aired! Man oh man! Do I feel old! This movie is a major comfort film of mine. I love everything about it, and it's the perfect telling of a haunted house. We get major talent of course by it's cast. Nancy Travis (Who I'll always remember playing the mother in Three Men And A Little Baby as Joyce, the professor who has put everything on the line about Rose Red. This woman rocks this slightly unstable bitchy role. You feel bad for her, but at the same time can't help but gulp when she begins to slowly unhinge. I love the little nods of her being slightly unstable. One of the best moments is when she confronts one of the deans at the college who is determined to ruin her career after she cuts her hand on a pin in her purse. This is the ultimate bad ass moment in the mini series, and something I'm sure you could get sued for doing in real life. Nevertheless, beyond awesome.
There's Matt Keeslar as Steve, the last living ancestor of Ellen who is sadly being blinded by Joyce. Kimberly Brown as Annie, the gifted girl who is the key behind waking Rose Red up. Then there's the rest of the supporting cast. The late David Dukes (Who I remember from Dawson's Creek) Sadly he died during production, but played such an asshole in this movie, and I loved it. Melanie Lynskey who played Annie's sister, Judith Ivery, Kevin Tighe, Emity Deschanel (years before Bones), Matt Ross who did SUCH a great job as Emery. His relationship with his mother was the most frighting thing about this movie. This guy was playing for the back row and did one HELL of a job doing it! And of course last but never least the charming Julian Sands (Warlock) I love Sands, and even had the pleasure of meeting him (ah memories) he plays the handsome and mysterious Nick, one of the more powerful psychics in the film and is someone who is a major highlight to watch. I proudly have a Rose Red poster autographed by him that I still have framed to this day. Watching all these powerhouse performances, goes to show you how emotional invested you become watching mini series like this. I always care for King's characters, and this is yet another example of how well he writes them. The movie even for being aired on ABC and now 15 years still holds up. I hate to admit I never really cared for the prequel or even the Diary of Ellen. I feel a true direct sequel would have been ten times better. This movie pretty much wrapped everything up for us with what originally went down. Sure it was interesting, but nothing beats the original. I remember years ago there was a site I stumbled upon which sadly is no longer up that was written as a sequel based off this film following one of the psychic's loved ones and how they are searching for what really happened at the house, even going so far as moving into one of the condos that now sits where Rose Red once stood. Man oh man, that would have made one HELL of a great sequel.
So this weekend I plan on knocking back a few drinks, smelling the roses, and dive into one of my all time favorite made for TV King movies. Happy 15 Rose Red!!!