Series: Rose Red

Rose Red is a three-part Miniseries written by Stephen King. The plot revolves around Rose Red, an abandoned mansion in the middle of Downtown Seattle. The mansion is considered to be haunted, and twenty-three people are rumored to have either died or disappeared either within it or on the grounds by the time the miniseries takes place.

Among the body count are Rose Red's original owners John (John Procaccino) and Ellen Rimbauer (Julia Campbell), their daughter April (Paige Gordon), Ellen's African maid Sukeena (Tsidii Le Loka), Mr. Rimbauer's business partner Douglas Posey (Don Alder), and famous actress Deanna Petrie (Yvonne Sciò). Additionally, the house does not have a set layout and number of floors. (How people do not notice the house shrinking and growing as they drive down the Alaska Way Viaduct is never explained. Presumably the growth aspect of the house is only a Bigger on the Inside ability which doesn't show on the outside.) After tours of Rose Red ceased in the 1970s (with another disappearance), the mansion became "dormant."

Joyce Reardon (Nancy Travis), a discredited professor of Parapsychology, wants to "wake up" the mansion by bringing in a team of psychics to connect with the paranormal manifestations that might be residing there. Her team consists of Annie Wheaton (Kimberly J. Brown), Cathy Kramer (Judith Ivey), Emery Waterman (Matt Ross), Nick Hardaway (Julian Sands), Pam Asbury (Emily Deschanel), and Victor (Vic) Kandinsky (Kevin Tighe), along with Steve Rimbauer (Matt Kesslar), the last-known member of the Rimbauer family, and Rachel Wheaton (Melanie Lynskey), Annie's older sister.

The miniseries was followed by a prequel titled The Diary Of Ellen Rimbauer, a tele-movie based on the tie-in novel of the same name.

This miniseries provides examples of:

  • Adam and/or Eve: Adam Rimbauer. In her diary entry on the day of his birth, Ellen comments on her choice of name: "Because he is the first."
  • Affably Evil: Sukeena's ghost is delightfully charming and devious as she leads first Bollinger, then Miller, to their doom, complete with all sorts of veiled double meanings and implications in her words that would be causing My Significance Sense Is Tingling in anyone other than such devout skeptics.
  • Artistic License – Geography: There is, of course, no 40-acre haunted mansion in the middle of downtown Seattle. Rose Red was filmed in a bed-and-breakfast in Tacoma. Additionally, aerial shots of the mansion show Mt. Rainier as being to the southeast from Elliot Bay when it is actually southwest.
  • Body Snatcher: Annie gets a moment of this when Ellen Rimbauer briefly possesses her. Made more chilling by hearing a normally mute autistic girl speak in full sentences.
  • Bury Your Gays: It's revealed that Posey, John Rimbauer's gay business partner, was forced to commit suicide because of his orientation being shameful to John. Not forced as in he felt he had no choice, it's implied that if he didn't he simply would have been killed. Strangely, Posey himself never appears as a spirit.
    • Not so strange. With very few exceptions, Rose Red doesn't seem to want any male "residents."
    • Not to mention Ellen and Sukeena, who get eaten by the house.
  • Creator Cameo: The pizza guy at the beginning is Stephen King himself.
  • Creepy Child: April and Annie, who are also the owners of nearly identical Creepy Dolls. Lampshaded by Emery.
  • Creepy Housekeeper: Even when she was still alive, Sukeena had vibes of this thanks to her exotic nature, her accent and her slow manner of speaking. Once the house took her...
  • Deadpan Snarker: Nick and, to some extent, Emery.
    (A rat bursts out from behind a wall)
    Nick: It's the reincarnation of Emery's mother!
    Cathy: (chiding): Nick...
  • Dead Line News: Bollinger's fate.
  • Decoy Protagonist: While the miniseries actually has a number of different protagonists depending on point of view and how far along in the story it is, with Steve, Annie, Nick and even Emery taking the role, both the order of introduction of characters and the fact the whole expedition is planned by her makes Joyce out to be the protagonist. By the end, however, it's clear the real heroes, and whom the story is actually about, is Steve and Annie.
  • Does Not Like Men: Joyce is implied to be a strong misandrist. John Rimbauer's treatment of Ellen turns her into this.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Rose Red is inspired by the Winchester Mansion.
  • Double Standard: In-story example in Rose Red itself—thanks to the feelings of its owner, Ellen, coupled with John's villainy, the house tends to make women simply disappear and become part of the house while men are outright killed.
    • Nick disappears, though. Maybe the house liked his sense of humor? Or perhaps the need for someone with so much psychic power to feed it outweighed his gender.
  • Driven to Suicide: Douglas Posey. It didn't pay to be a known homosexual in those days, but John Rimbauer's persecution was more due to, it seemed, fears of his former partner being a little too close to his son (or perhaps fear of him coming on to his boss, since they had been such very good friends).
  • Dwindling Party: Unsurprisingly, for both a haunted house film and a Stephen King work. For the first part, nobody dies (except Bollinger), but then in part two, both Pam and Vic bite the dust, as well as Professor Miller, and in the final part, Nick, Mrs. Waterman and Joyce are lost in rapid succession. Unusually, however, there are actually quite a few survivors (five).
  • Eldritch Abomination: Rose Red itself, if you believe that it's sentient.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Emery
  • Expy: Annie, of Carrie. Rose Red of the Winchester Mystery House. Ellen Rimbauer of Sarah Winchester.
  • Eye Awaken / The Eyes Have It: Ellen Rimbauer's statue in the garden, complete with tear-away face.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Well, it's still death of a sort, but while becoming "one with the house" is played as a more humane alternative to being killed by it, the reactions of Mrs. Waterman and especially Joyce suggests that the experience itself is quite horrific.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Vic's heart problems.
    • Annie and the falling stones.
  • Garden of Evil: The ominously dead, then ominously and richly alive, solarium has definite shades of this.
  • Genius Loci: Apparently, the house is smart enough to be able to alter Steve's message on Professor Miller's answering machine, thus luring him in.
  • Glamour Failure: Whenever the house uses the image of someone to lure someone else to their death (Cathy for Pam, then Pam for Vic and Emery), they get a flash of red in their eyes. Done in a subtle, blink-and-you-miss-it moment for the Cathy example.
  • Gorn: Emery losing his fingers. Stephen King even admitted he included this scene expressly to see how much the network would let him get away with. (And to show the house "had teeth" so it would be taken as a serious threat.)
  • Haunted House: Obviously. However, it is inverted in at least one literal respect: the inside of the house is not scary at all at first, with warm colors, beautiful furnishings and artwork, and only some cobwebs and dust cloths to show the place isn't lived in. This was intentional, as Word of God stated "We wanted the place to feel inviting, to feel like a's only after you're there for a while that the chill starts to set in and grab hold of you..."
  • Heel Face Door Slam: While Bollinger was happy to help Professor Miller discredit Joyce with his photographs, he seems to sense something is off about Rose Red once they get there and voices his doubts to Miller...Who immediately drives away, sealing Bollinger's fate.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: Near the end of shooting, the director realized that Joyce was nowhere to be seen during the whole last section of part two. Aside from this being a big Plot Hole, it also would have made her change from only slightly unhinged and obsessed to outright Laughing Mad and Ax-Crazy much more jarring. But when they wanted to film some new segments to be inserted during the arrival of Professor Miller and Mrs. Waterman, as well as Vic's death, Nancy Travis was pregnant. Cue body double, a big sweater, and mostly face shots.
  • A House Divided: At first, everyone against Emery for being a Jerkass and wanting to kill Annie. Then it becomes everyone against Joyce. In between, other than Steve and Rachel, Nick and Steve, and then Nick and Cathy, it's everyone fends for themselves.
  • Indian Burial Ground: The explanation for the haunting as explained in the book prequel.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: "I'm a Little Teapot"
  • Jerkass:
    • Surprisingly, Emery started out as kind of a jerk, but most of what he said was either justified or retaliation for something Nick said. Emery comes off more as a Jerkass Woobie after it's him that most of the really awful things happen to, having had to witness somebody die, gone partially insane in convincing himself that it never happened, damn near got killed by several spirits and then loses his mother, not knowing until her ghost tries to kill him. He also seems to be on good terms with the other characters at the end.
    • Also, at least in Backstory, John Rimbauer, to the point of being a Manipulative Bastard. See how his carelessness during adultery led to Ellen contracting some sort of venereal disease which was responsible for April's withered arm, his plots with the stable-boys to hide his assignations with the maids, how he reacts to one of them disappearing (i.e., more worried she'd fled to the police and would rat on him), his driving his business partner to suicide rather than be outed as gay, his ordering the arrest (and torture) of Sukeena for April's disappearance... His fate is definitely a case of well-deserved Laser-Guided Karma.
    • Professor Miller. He constantly insults and belittles Joyce for her interests in the supernatural, and used Kevin Bollinger to spy on and mock Joyce and her plan in the school newspaper. While it is understandable that he's skeptical, it seemed more like he was desperate to ruin her. And he yelled at a student who was pretty much observing him after Joyce scared him shitless.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: If the group had knocked Annie out as Emery suggested, they might have been able to escape before the house took Nick and Mrs. Waterman.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Nick. He routinely uses Emery as a target for his snarks, but he shows many times that he is a great guy nevertheless.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis: Played with through the tie-in material. A la The Blair Witch Project, there was once a fake website purporting to belong to Joyce Reardon and Beaumont University, giving information about the Rose Red project and implying she was a real person. Similarly, the "Making Of" segment which aired on TV prior to the miniseries itself made use of actors to play the "real" Joyce and Steve, told the whole story of Rose Red as if it were real history, and included segments from real-life historians and Seattle public figures acting as if Rose Red were real. Finally, the Diary of Ellen Rimbauer itself, though ghost-written by Tabitha King (Stephen's wife), had no author indicated when published, instead having a foreword written by its supposed editor Joyce Reardon after the book was 'found' in an estate sale. All in all, a rather complex and well-done effort, if fairly obvious as a fake. No word on if anyone outside of Seattle bought into it.
  • The Load: Rachel, most of the time, and lampshaded by her actress: "I spend all my time saying 'Annie, are you okay? Steve, are you okay?' I'm not a psychic, so I'm not any use when all the paranormal stuff starts happening." Still a Badass Normal though, and in the end, her status as The Heart and Morality Chain for both Annie and Steve may be what saves them.
  • Madness Mantra:
    • Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin!
  • Malevolent Architecture: Rose Red has freaky architecture by design thanks to Ellen and Sukeena's overzealous desire to please the house, ranging from a perspective hallway and a mirror library to an upside-down room and a rose window tower. But when the house awakens and draws on psychic energy, it can, as Nick says, "be as big as it wants." Corridors change direction, people can get lost just going around a corner, whole sections of the house switch places, at one point an endless stairwell freaks out Emery, and even having a ball of string to follow won't take you back where you started without cleverness and telekinesis. While Rose Red was inspired by the Winchester Mystery House, the most ominous aspect here is that even after Ellen and everyone else had died, the house continued to grow and build itself. It's one of the more convincing and disconcerting effects in the miniseries.
  • Man Child: Emery has shades of this, due to the fact that he's still under the thumb of his Beloved Smother.
  • Meaningful Name: Invoked in story with Ellen's son: "I shall call him 'Adam,' for he shall be the first."
  • Mind over Matter: Annie is telekinetic.
  • Mind Screw: Aside from the Malevolent Architecture of the house (complete with a room where all the furniture is nailed to the ceiling and the light fixtures to the floor to appear upside down), the entire sequence of events surrounding Pam's death is this. From the series of nested Dreams Within A Dream that makes it unclear what is really happening (Pam awaking from a Catapult Nightmare is actually still within the dream), to Cathy's Evil Twin juxtaposed with her real self being menaced by...something, to the overlay of images in the garden with Annie watching April in her closet, it's very surreal and disjointed, surely intentionally so. It gets to the point that many viewers didn't even realize Pam had died, and didn't figure it out until her evil ghost self led Vic to his doom, or until it was confirmed by Emery at the start of part three.
  • Miss Exposition: Joyce is this for the whole first part of the miniseries, explaining the history of the Rimbauers and Rose Red to her party of psychics. While she was a university professor so the location was a natural choice, the fact she briefed them in an actual lecture hall may count as a Lampshade Hanging. She continues to be so while giving the tour of Rose Red (something Emery remarks on snidely later), until Nick and Steve take over her duties when she is indisposed.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: An interesting variation, to say the least, in the case of Emery's mother.
  • Mood Whiplash: Night one at the house—the group goes from hearing the story of Posey and witnessing ghostly phenomenon to...dancing to Glenn Miller, complete with levitation provided by Annie and pizza delivered by Stephen King himself. Then they all go to bed...and start having bad dreams and creepy experiences. Of course, if you know your King, this is to be expected.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Steve and/or Nick, depending on your preference.
  • My Beloved Smother: Mrs. Waterman. Even from beyond the grave.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: In the opening scene, Annie causes a house to get pelted with large stones by drawing black vertical lines on a picture of it.
  • No Social Skills: Emery
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Not just the fact that, as is often the case when Special Effects Failure comes into play, seeing the ghosts/zombies is actually less scary than the unknown of not seeing them. It also applies in the sense that many of the more ominous shots, if they don't involve Darkness Equals Death (and often even when they do), are ones in which nothing is happening and a great deal of empty space and quiet is featured.
  • Not Now, Kiddo: An effective but painful variation with Annie; thanks to her incredible powers, she has a better understanding of the house than anyone else and even witnesses things none of the others do, or can...but she can't tell anyone because she's autistic. This becomes especially upsetting when she sees Vic with Evil!Pam but cannot see the latter, only Vic talking to himself; she tries to get Steve and Rachel's attention, but they don't understand, leaving her to sit down in a crying huff and Vic to be led to his death.
  • Only Sane Man: Nick
  • Pet the Dog: In a way, the house could be said to have one when the group first arrives, and Annie starts the old fountain running. Helped by the gentle, almost wistful music.
  • Psychic Powers: Unsurprisingly, since Joyce wanted to have the best team she could get for her excursion, the members of the team are all varied and have a number of useful powers, though not all of them get used to their full extent thanks to the Dwindling Party:
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Originally, Professor Miller was supposed to have a much larger role in events at the mansion. However, when his actor, David Dukes, died unexpectedly, the director was forced to enlarge the part of Mrs. Waterman and finish off Miller's role by using clever editing of the footage they had, plus a body double with a latex face mask. It's actually fairly seamless.
  • Reality Warper: Rose Red
  • Rule of Symbolism:
  • Sanity Slippage: Joyce goes through this during the miniseries. In part one, she shows signs of the wacky. At the conclusion of part two, she becomes Laughing Mad. In part three, it's clear that she's Ax-Crazy, even showing that she's willing to let the house kill all of them to get what she wants. By the end she's determined to stay even after multiple people died in the place, they had just gotten the doors open again and it was clear that the house would kill them all if they stayed. She finally comes to her senses but way too late as everyone else has already left and she is taken by the house.
    • Emery also goes through this. After witnessing Vic's death of a heart attack, he convinces himself that it never really happened, despite everybody else's objections and goes off into the mansion himself, where he is tormented by Deanna and ends up in an apparently bottomless stairwell. He keeps slowly losing his mind, loses his fingers when the doors seal shut and begins considering killing Annie just to get out of the mansion. He then has to confront the spirit of his now-dead mother as she tries to pull him into a mirror and presumably eat him. He's shown to be back to normal afterward and seems to have made up for his Jerkass attitude toward the rest of the cast.
  • Scenery Porn: Many of the interior shots of the mansion, particularly the foyer.
  • Shout-Out: To a number of films and books, especially horror or Haunted House ones. Of note is Joyce's quote from Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House: "Some houses are born bad."
    • Emery considering the possibility of killing Annie to resolve the problems is very similar to the end of "little Anthony" episode of The Twilight Zone.
  • Smug Snake: Professor Miller for certain. Bollinger has aspects of it as well.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The miniseries' "theme song" could be said to be the Theme from "A Summer Place". Aside from being one of Annie's favorite songs, however, it plays at various points during the supernatural happenings, is sung by April's ghost to Annie (and confused by Rachel for Annie's record player), and at the last is hummed by Joyce's ghost as the others leave and the house is slated for demolition.
  • Spooky Photo: While there is a painting of Ellen Rimbauer in the foyer of the house, it is never viewed as particularly ominous even with the tracking shots and the play of light and shadows on it. However, the wedding photo of the Rimbauers in the attic becomes positively Nightmare Fueleriffic when Ellen's face morphs into a fanged corpse which then lunges through the shattering glass at poor Cathy.
  • Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: Deanna Petrie, Ellen Rimbauer and Pam.
  • Telepathy: Nick and Steve.
  • Touch of the Monster: Deanna and Pam try to get Emery to leave his Plane of Existence by seducing him.
    "I'm hard up ladies, but I ain't that hard up!"
  • Trash the Set: What happens to Rose Red after Annie unleashes the stones upon it at the end.
  • Tyke Bomb: Joyce sees Annie as this.
  • The Voiceless: Annie, most of the time. Like The Quiet One, when she does speak, it is usually to impart something very important, at least to her.
  • Walking Wasteland: Both the grounds of Rose Red and the solarium/greenhouse, thanks to the place having been neglected for so long. Subverted, however, once the house begins feeding on everyone's psychic energy, resulting in a profusion of flowers and plant life in the greenhouse.
  • Where Da White Women At?: Sukeena uses the inversion of this trope (at Ellen's behest) to lure John Rimbauer to his death. "And still I entice you!"
  • Whispering Ghosts: Appears at various points, usually whenever Annie is communing with the house (including before she ever even gets there, when she sees a reflection of its gargoyles in her wind chimes) or the house's power is on a rise, but the most common (and disturbing) version occurs at the end of part one when all of them are standing in the front courtyard and Steve declares the house is waiting for and wants them.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Emery, when it looked like the only way to escape. Joyce, once Annie was broken free of the house's control.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Everyone else is horrified when Emery suggests knocking out or even killing Annie to allow the group to escape Rose Red.