Dr. Joyce Reardon, a psychology professor, leads a team of psychics into the infamous mansion known as Rose Red looking for proof of the paranormal. Her efforts unleash the spirit of former owner Ellen Rimbauer who is looking to continue building Rose Red anyway she can.


Billy: At first glance, there’s really very little happening in Rose Red that hasn’t already been done. Steve and Annie have a psychic connection much like Halloran and Danny in The Shining. It takes huge swatches from The Haunting and Carrie, as well as integrating the legend of the Winchester House. However, I’m fine with all of that being there in every single way. It combines enough of the right ingredients in a schlocky, delicious stew that I actually feel is worth spending four and a half hours of television consuming. As for King ripping off his own works with The Shining and Carrie, well… that’s just a connected universe.

Besides that, Rose Red seems to ask the same questions as it’s referenced works while giving different answers. The addition of the Winchester mythos to the The Haunting premise means there’s a lot more physical space in the house for the supernatural to scurry about in. Rose Red remains vague for the most part between whether Ellen Rimbauer is a ghost or actually still alive and wandering the interior rooms of Rose Red as needed. That’s legitimately terrifying, and condemns each victim to a fate worse than death. She’s even referred to as a vampire at one point, feeding off the psychic energy the guests of the manor have provided.

Amelia: Rose Red is a bit of an oddball on this list. This isn’t a movie, this is a three part, four and a half hour television mini-series that Stephen King penned in its entirety while he was in the hospital. I saw parts two and three when I was eleven or twelve, and this viewing of Rose Red is my second time seeing the first hour and a half. Those three hours I saw as a kid though, they imprinted on my very being!

I’m crazy for ghost stories, even crazier for ghost stories that feature huge houses that have crazy architecture, crazier still for a sentient house with crazy architecture, an evil backstory, and the ability to move around its walls at will. Rose Red was more or less made for me. Thank you Stephen King. You and I might not see eye to eye in terms of 95% of your catalogue of work, but we’ll always have Rose Red.

Billy: The fate of a haunted house story also depends on more than just the supernatural. As locked room mysteries, the guests play a supremely important role. In this case, it’s our band of psychics. It’s unfortunate how much time the film spends on Emery’s home life, because he’s the broadest, worst character of the lot. I would have loved a few more scenes focussing on the other backstories, and with over four and a half hours of runtime in this already, there’s no way I should be asking for more scenes. As it stands, we have a few throwaway characters like Victor and Pam who doesn’t really make an impact other than being played by actors I recognize. Nick and Cathy have much more of a reason to be here, including some fantastic kitchen scenes, but I never really felt like this group gelled in the way they should have for Rose Red to be truly great.

From left to right: Emery (worst), Nick (best), Pam (television actress I recognize)

Amelia: The ghosts of Rose Red are honestly so great. I love the idea of the main ghost (for lack of anything else to call Ellen) haunting Rose Red because she was told by a possessed psychic that she will never die as long as Rose Red was under construction and growing. Even in death(??) Ellen stalks the hallways and many hidden places of her manor recruiting people to help her build and live forever. And when I say people, I mean women, because Ellen hated men and her and her evil house will just kill men and be done with them. Love that motivation. Ellen, sweetie, you’re doing amazing.

And that’s not even mentioning what these spirits physically look like. Sometimes they can appear as they did in life, but most times, they’re these freaky, withered zombie-esque creatures. Ellen at her most pissed off turns into like, a vampire-looking ghost that I’d normally hate but it works here.

Billy: I’m somewhat enamored with this time period for TV miniseries as a whole. It’s right before the turning point of when television would start to be taken seriously by critics and producers and it still lacks a little bit of that polish. A mini series like this was a huge event, but also a romp. Stephen King’s cameo as the pizza delivery man clinches it for me. It’s so much fun. He’s just such an anti-horror character in that moment. It reminded me far too much of Clue for me not to love it.

We even get that incredibly charming early-2000s use of special effects and budget CGI. I love the mirror library as a location, and when that mirrored floor became a pool for Cathy to sink down into, I was thoroughly entertained. When we actually see the ghosts, they’re skeletal and horrific. Ellen Rimbauer shows up in person as a creepy-as-fuck puppet lady. It’s just an aesthetic that gives me those nostalgic feels, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Amelia: What I don’t like about Rose Red is the fact that the main character, Annie, is pretty much a superpowered human. She has telekinesis strong enough to rain rocks from the sky and to make herself and another person fly while dancing. It’s the worst part of this mini-series and it reeks of Stephen King. You know that smell if you know anything about King. The smell of “maybe don’t do that” but he does it anyways because sometimes he’s a hack extraordinaire.

I’m not against having psychic characters in a universe that establishes such things as real, but to have one as powerful as Annie just dropped in, casual as can be, when everyone else only has flashes of the past or is an automatic writer? I’m not buying it. All I can think about is where are all the other telekinetic superhumans? Which ones became supervillains? Show me the supervillains.

No, you know what? Don’t show me the supervillains. Show me more of Rose Red and its ghosts. Yeah. That’s the good shit.

Spooky Verdict

Billy: Six and a half roses out of ten

I haven’t read nearly enough Stephen King to be an expert on his tropes, but it seems like this is enough of a hodgepodge to fit right into his latter wheelhouse. The Winchester House is one of my favourite go-to horror stories, so it won a lot of goodwill with me right off the bat. Although it takes a little longer to get going than it should, that’s a problem with miniseries in general, especially from this era. It’s all about when it gets deep into those scares. Red Rose is worth checking out once or twice.

Amelia: Seven roses out of ten

It’s a cheesy Stephen King mini-series that aired on ABC in 2002 and that’s honestly enough to put anyone off, but don’t let it! Rose Red is part The Haunting of Hill House and part a haunted Winchester Manor story that we all so very much deserve. It’s four and a half hours of ghostly goodness, even if some of it could have used a little work (the girl with superpower level telekinesis or the fat kid with mommy issues come immediately to mind) but King will be King after all.

Billy Seguire
A Toronto-based writer and reviewer who thrives on good science-fiction and stories that defy expectations. Always tries to find a way to be excited about what he's doing. Definitely isn't just two kids in a trenchcoat. Co-Host of Scooby Dos or Scooby Don'ts.

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