Stephen King has had a pretty good run with the mini-series format, thanks in part to the logistical challenges of bringing his works effectively to the screen in less than 4 hours. The Stand, Storm of the Century, and his own remake of The Shining have benefitted from the extra time to tell their respective tales, but, conversely, it has also resulted in long films that lose their way by the final act. King's latest opus, Rose Red, treads similiar ground, but still manages to best most of his previous television efforts.
Rose Red is a ludicrously large mansion in Seattle, Washington. Built by an oil magnate for his wife in the early 1900's, the house developed a reputation for "devouring" it's guests, with over 23 people gone missing or dying of mysterious circumstances since the day the construction workers broke ground. Psychology teacher, Dr.Joyce Reardon (Travis) has long held a fascination with the property, and finances a weekend long investigation into the house, with the approval of the lone surviving heir, Steven (Keeslar) and much to the chagrin of the head of her department at the university, Professor Miller (Dukes, who died mid-procuction). Accompanied by a group of psychics of varying skills and degrees of ability (post-cogniscent, automatic writer, pre-cogniscent, telekinetic, etc), Joyce sets out to awaken the forces that lay dormant within the old mansion to prove that the house is a living entity. The doctor's psychic ace, Annie (Brown), a young autistic girl with extraordinary abilities, immediately connects with the otherworldy inhabitants of Rose Red, and through her they trap the others inside it's everchanging walls as the house that was thought to be a "dead cell" get's a long overdue recharge.
Rose Red is an entertaining spookfest. The film has loads in common with The Haunting, but that is intentional since King had been working with Spielberg over the course of a few years to develop "the scariest haunted house movie ever.". When Spielberg went ahead with his own production of The Haunting, King took his property to ABC, and the result is a much more satisfying and terrifying film that would do Shirley Jackson proud.
The film comes in at just over four hours, and, when watched in one sitting, it's a pretty draining experience. The first hour set's up each character (mainly focusing on Joyce, Stephen, Annie and Emery (Matt Ross), the comic relief post-cogniscent) with the remaining three hours building up a sense of dread about the house and it's past. While the slow build-up will turn many off, die-hard King fans will eat it up, because it plays out just like one of his books, and in the end makes each character a lot more interesting and important to the viewer.
Once the scares get rolling, they are very effective and quite scary considering this is a television film!! The special effects rival many mega-budget productions, with the whole gamut of spooks present, from zombies to ghosts and everything in between. There were several moments that made me jump, and I was always expecting something around every corner to leap out and rack up another victim for the house.The level of dread is a credit to Craig R. Baxley's deliberate pacing, balancing King's character driven screenplay with the sights and sounds of a major motion picture fright fest.
Rose Red loses it's way, however, in it's final act. While the set-up was so expertly handled, the tail end of the film is somewhat unsatisfying and seems a bit too easy after the major struggles that led up to it. It's a minor gripe, though, considering that the bulk of the film is strong.
The Lions Gate DVD presents the film over 2 discs, in a full-frame transfer (which is expected) and Dolby 5.0 mix. The second disc features two extras; an hour long making-of that is very informative and is one of the better behind the scenes docs I've seen, as well as a Blair Witch inspired mockumentary about the Rose Red legend that clocks in at 30 minutes. All told, you get almost six hours of goodies on a relatively low-priced (srp.$24.95), accompanying an accomplished little haunted house movie that will definitely please fans of the master and surprise those who are not.