Stephen King's Rose Red

So, this weekend there was a Stephen King all-day special on Sci Fi I think. I watched part of it - The Shining and Rose Red in particular (neither of which I had read).

The Shining was pretty well done. That is not what I want to talk about.

The more I think about Rose Red, about the premise, about the characters, about how they behave, about what the hell they were thinking, about what the hell the author was thinking to write them like this - I am left with a bigger and bigger WTF feeling, and I just have to get this out of my head and down into words. So here you go.

There’s this psychic researcher lady at a Seattle-area college, rather embattled because she teaches parapsychology, and insists at every turn “parapsychology is a legitimate field of science!” The psychic researcher lady (who actually has no psychic powers of her own) wants “just one indisputable paranormal occurrence” - just one thing that she can use to prove beyond a doubt that paranormal stuff exists, and then get all sorts of funding and tenure and glory and so on.

Ok. So there’s this house - more like a mansion, it’s really huge, kinda like a scaled-down Versailles - Rose Red, that has eaten 23 people over the past 100 years, until they stopped giving tours of it. It hasn’t done anything paranormal in the past five years, which indicates it’s “a dead cell”. So psychic lady’s brilliant idea - so she says - is to nudge it a bit and get this psychically powerful place to do something and provide her indisputable evidence.

For this purpose, she assembles an A-team of psychics, who conveniently demonstrate all their powers at the happy hour in the bar the evening before the mission starts. You’ve got the precognitive who describes the actions and appearance of two people who come walking by shortly thereafter, the telepath, the “touch-sense” (basically, a wimpy female version of Johnny Smith from the Dead Zone), the fat geek with visions of the past, the Christian wacko “ghost-writer” who can do some sort of thought transmission by writing, and the guy who is the last descendant of the house’s builders.

And of course there’s the one person psychic lady wants most who shows up at the last minute, an autistic girl who’s a major telekinetic, and her method of introducing herself is to set every parked bicycle wheel in sight spinning wildly, then stop them all instantaneously.

Why is psychic lady going into this house again? Let’s see:

Just one, hm? What is the matter with using autistic Supergirl here, or any of the others who seem to have pretty reliable abilities? Ok, the basic premise already has a distinct flavor of swiss cheese.

While we’re on this, where did she get all these people? Out of the Yellow Pages, under heading “Psychic”? From properly accredited institutions or places of business? “Hi, this is the company telepath, he’ll be making sure you’re honest”

Ok. So much for that. So they get to the house - where a stereotypical idiot reporter sneaked in earlier, and promptly got munched - and the first thing that happens is a massive wind out of nowhere that comes along and slams the doors behind them

Ok, psychic lady. You’ve gotten the house to respond. You’re done, right? Wrong.

This bit was actually pretty good. Psychic lady takes them all on a tour of the house. There are some pretty cool architectural features here, from a large circular library room with a mirrored floor, so it looks like you’re suspended in midair, and a hallway built to look as though there are mirrors down one side when in fact it’s double-wide, and another hallway built to look as though you’re walking on the ceiling. That was all worth seeing. But then it gets back to following the plot, and being stupid.

Psychic lady had spent some time explaining how the house had been making changes and additions to itself ever since 1950 or so, without human assistance. Psychic lady has also had a lot to say about how the people who keep disappearing in the house seem to get lost. So when they try to retrace their steps to the entrance hall, for some reason it surprises all of them that the hallways don’t look the same and don’t lead to the same places.

Wait a minute. Wasn’t this house - what was the term? ah, yes - “a dead cell”? No paranormal activity for years, nothing happening, it would take a major shock to wake it up again? Isn’t rooms and hallways rearranging themselves behind your back more than a little unusual? Not for psychic lady! Who, it is becoming clear, might better be termed psycho lady. When they find evidence of the photographer, she immediately rules out even reporting the disappearance, because that would jeopardize her absolutely vital research (which, incidentally, she’s already completed, if she’d care to notice). Everybody else is acting very un-freaked out, like somehow this business of rearranged architecture is their own fault and they’re just confused and must have misplaced their brain somewhere. Wait, that’s the whole story right there; sorry for giving it away.

Having explained that they should not wander alone, to always use the buddy system, etc., they promptly all separate and go to bed for the night in different rooms. Fat Geek dreams about propositioning the hot blonde touch-sense, and then wakes up with a rotting zombie movie star in bed with him; the blonde touch-sense - who is also a moron - falls for a really stupid story and runs off into the house alone, following a phantom. She’s dead. Somehow, the next morning, nobody actually notices that she’s missing until Fat Geek has some sort of vision of her.

Psycho lady spends her time with complicated electronic equipment, measuring something-or-other in various rooms, trying to detect minuscule traces of psychic energy so as to have enough evidence for her proof. HELLO? LOOK AROUND, YOU STUPID BITCH!

I don’t remember too well - and frankly don’t care to - the exact sequence of events after that. The old precognitive gets seduced by a vision of the blonde moron, goes outside, strange things happen, he gets a heart attack, pounds on the window for Fat Geek’s help, Fat Geek decides it’s a vision and ignores it, old guy dies and the ravens peck out his eyes. Fat Geek’s overprotective and ridiculously stupid mother shows up, along with the jerk psychology professor who’s been belittling psycho lady. Mommy goes running through the woods around the house, screaming Fat Geek’s name about a billion times and not finding him after the billionth any more than she did after the first. The psych prof ends up some sort of dead after running around in the woods a lot too. This being a haunted house, and several of them being already dead, they all decide that it would be a good idea to split up and go wandering around the halls at night in groups of two or three. So they do.

Fat Geek’s Mom ends up inside the house somehow, completely deranged - although it’s not that much of a change from her original state - and gets conked in the head with a billiard ball, then tied up by the telepath, who then calmly explains to Christian Wacko how he’s just going to leave her there - tied up, helpless, alone, in a house where spooks just wait to lunge out of closets at you. Christian Wacko, being such a good Christian, agrees that this is a good idea. Maybe Christian Wacko was as tired as I was of listening to the harpy’s endlessly repetitive yowling. Anyway, after they leave, zombies promptly pop out of a closet and haul her inside, howling all the time. The telepath then gets eaten by a zombie carpet, or something. Fat Geek gets the tips of the fingers on one hand chopped off by a slamming door, which seems to gift him with a measure of sanity, as he then starts predicting doom and death for all of them. The rest try to pretend that such predictions are somehow unreasonable.

Psycho lady, meanwhile, is humming happily to herself, and looking for evidence of paranormal phenomena.

They accuse psycho lady of knowing what would happen and bringing all these psychics into this house as food for it to wake it up. Psycho lady takes a hurt and innocent look and says she has no idea what they’re talking about.

More ghost zombies, more winds, more stuff exploding and breaking, more running and screaming, a couple smidgens of background explaining why the house is haunted, Fat Geek’s Zombie Mom pops out of a mirror and tries to haul him into it before she gets punched by somebody; they get the doors open. Psycho lady finds this entirely unacceptable and tries to stop them - they’re interfering with her research! The plan was to stay for several more days! No, no, she can’t possibly leave, she has “a thousand things to do”. But they can leave if they want to - traitors. So they do, and autistic girl - who I haven’t mentioned much, mainly because she doesn’t actually do anything all that stupid - rains down a shower of meteorites on the house and busts it up good.

Psycho lady gets surrounded by all the house’s ghosts, who are mad at losing the others, and dies screaming. Or maybe she doesn’t die. Well, it amounts to the same thing.

Then there’s an epilogue scene, where it’s implied the house is going to be knocked down, but that isn’t actually shown.

To sum up: nice architecture, way stupid plot. Also, horror stories depend way too much on the protagonists not wanting to believe what is going on.

Dude. It was a piece of Stephen King writing.

Worse, it was a Stephen King screenplay. The man simply can’t write for movies. Whatever you think of his novels, they are better than anything he’s done for the screen. The only movie projects based on his work that succeed are the ones that he has nothing to do with.

The total craptacularness of this show was evident from the moment it begins.

At that point you have only one decision to make.

I ended up seeing it in bits and pieces as my girlfriend decided to watch it. My tolerance for trash is much lower, but I sure as hell know what it looks like when I see it.

“Golden Years” sucked too, btw.

Some sort of Orange Pekoe based horror film would have been better.

One of the joys of Netflix is renting stuff you normally are pretty leery about. I loved Kubrick’s version of THE SHINING, so I figured I’d at least see if the mini-series version was worth a shit. It was…ok. Ultimately it was nowhere near as good as the original, but come on. It had enough effective scenes to keep me watching, I guess.

Next up I tried the miniseries version of SALEM’S LOT. The original made-for-tv version of this (with the immortal David Soul and Lance Kerwin) creeped me out as a kid. I found the new version with Rob Lowe to be fairly effective, if only because I really like Rob Lowe and Donald Sutherland, and the acting was generally rock solid by the supporting cast. Pretty decent, despite some glaring plot-holes.

Last up, two weeks ago I caught ROSE RED. Unspeakably awful. Just a terrible, terrible attempt to do LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE that failed miserably. One of the stupidest movies I’ve ever tried to sit through, as it became apparent that the film had painted itself into a corner early on in the second act, watching it conclude was almost painful.