Rose Red is a 2002 American television miniseries scripted by horror novelist Stephen King, directed by Craig R. Baxley, and starring Nancy Travis, Matt Keeslar, Julian Sands, Kimberly J. Brown, David Dukes, Melanie Lynskey, Matt Ross, and Emily Deschanel. It was filmed in Lakewood, Washington. The plot focuses on a reputedly haunted mansion located in Seattle, Washington named Rose Red. Due to its long history of supernatural events and unexplained tragedies, the house is investigated by parapsychologist Dr. Joyce Reardon and a team of gifted psychics.
Originally conceived as a feature film, writer Stephen King pitched the idea for Rose Red to Steven Spielberg in 1996, envisioning it as a loose remake of Robert Wise's 1963 film The Haunting (which itself was based on Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House). In 1999, a feature film remake of The Haunting was released, after which King's script was revised and expanded into a miniseries. In writing the teleplay, King incorporated a variety of influences, including elements of Jackson's novel as well as the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. The setting changed from Los Angeles to Seattle after the production team secured the Thornewood Estate in Lakewood as a shooting location. Rose Red was filmed in the fall of 2000 in Seattle and Lakewood with principal photography concluding in mid-December. Post-production lasted approximately six months, during which various special effects were implemented into the series.
ABC provided Rose Red a $200,000 marketing campaign, which included extensive advertising. In addition to television commercials, an elaborate campaign was launched to make the fictional mansion and its history appear real: This included a fake website for the fictional Beaumont University, the university featured in the film, as well as the publication of The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red (2001), a novel purportedly written by the fictional character of Ellen Rimbauer, the wife of the estate's owner, and edited by the miniseries' fictional protagonist, Dr. Joyce Reardon.
Rose Red premiered in the United States on ABC on January 27, 2002, running for three consecutive nights, during which it accrued a viewership of over 18.5 million.
Dr. Joyce Reardon, an unorthodox university psychology professor, leads a team of psychics to the massive and antiquated Seattle mansion known as Rose Red in an attempt to record data which would constitute scientific proof of paranormal phenomena. The mansion is publicly thought to be haunted, as at least 23 people have either disappeared or died there and the interior of the house appears to change or increase in size, yet only from the inside. Reardon's team awakens the evil spirit possessing the house, leading to several deaths and the revelation of the mansion's deadly secrets.
History of Rose Red
According to information revealed at various points in the miniseries, and Ellen's diary, Rose Red was built in 1906 by wealthy oilman John Rimbauer as a wedding gift for his young wife, Ellen. Rimbauer used much of his wealth to build the mansion, which was in the Tudor-Gothic style and situated on 40 acres (160,000 m2) of woodland in the heart of Seattle on the site of a Native American burial ground. The house was rumored to be cursed even as it was being constructed; three construction workers were killed on the site, and a construction foreman was murdered by a co-worker.
While honeymooning in Africa, Ellen Rimbauer fell ill (from an unspecified sexually transmitted disease given to her by her unfaithful husband) and made the acquaintance of Sukeena, a local tribeswoman. The two women became very close while Sukeena nursed Ellen back to health, and Sukeena accompanied the Rimbauers back to the newly completed Rose Red to work there full-time as a servant. The Rimbauers soon had two children, Adam and April, the latter born with a withered arm, but Ellen quickly became unhappy with her marriage to her philandering, neglectful, and misogynistic husband. After a spiritualist seance, Ellen came to believe that if she continued to build and expand the house, she would never die.
Bizarre deaths and unresolved disappearances became more commonplace at the house throughout the years. Several female servants disappeared and one of John Rimbauer's friends died of a bee sting in the solarium, while his business partner (whom Rimbauer had cheated out of his share of the oil company's profits) hanged himself in front of Rimbauer's children in the parlour room of Rose Red. Six-year-old April also vanished while playing in the kitchen, never to be seen or heard from again, leaving only her doll in the chair she was last seen sitting in. Sukeena, who was babysitting April, was the last person to see her alive and was tortured mercilessly by the local police after being suspected of April's murder. During April's disappearance eight-year-old Adam was sent off to attend boarding school and kept away from the house as much as possible. John Rimbauer died in an apparent suicide by throwing himself from an upper stained-glass window; in actuality, however, he was murdered by Ellen and Sukeena.
Ellen used nearly all of her dead husband's fortune to continually add to the home over the next several decades, enlarging it significantly. The mysterious disappearances continued to occur: a famous actress and dear friend of Ellen's, Deanna Petrie, vanished within the house's billiard room during a party in the 1940s. By the 1950s, both Ellen Rimbauer and Sukeena had disappeared in Rose Red.
For several years after Ellen's disappearance, only servants occupied Rose Red. Eventually, all left one by one out of fear. Adam Rimbauer, who inherited the house, lived there for a short time with his wife. However, he abandoned Rose Red after witnessing several paranormal events, such as seeing the ghost of his long-lost little sister April, and watching rooms alter their size and shape before his very eyes. After his death, and with the family fortune depleted, his wife generated income by permitting the Seattle Historical Society to give tours of the house. These ceased in 1972 after a female participant disappeared while on a tour of the mansion. Investigations for paranormal phenomena were conducted on the property in the 1960s and 1970s. But these also ended, and the house fell into disrepair.
The miniseries begins in the year 2001. Steven Rimbauer, the great-grandson of John and Ellen Rimbauer, has inherited Rose Red. He has been offered a substantial sum of money to have the house torn down and the site developed into condominiums. He is intrigued by the paranormal history of the house, and has agreed to allow one more investigation of the mansion.
In 1991 Seattle, young Annie Wheaton is drawing a picture of a house as her parents and older sister, Rachel, argue outside her room. As she draws lines down over the house in her picture, rocks fall through the roof of an identical house belonging to an elderly couple down the street whose dog had bitten Annie, severely damaging the building.
Ten years later in 2001, Dr. Joyce Reardon is a professor at the fictional Beaumont University who teaches classes on psychic phenomena. Kevin Bollinger, a reporter for the campus newspaper, skeptically questions her about a trip she will be taking to Rose Red, an ostensibly haunted and abandoned mansion in Seattle. Professor Carl Miller, Joyce's departmental chair who questions the validity of Joyce's research, orders Bollinger to follow Reardon and spy on a meeting with the group of psychics she is taking to Rose Red. The group includes Victor "Vic" Kandinsky, an elderly precognate with heart disease; Pam Asbury, a young psychometric; Cathy Kramer, a middle-aged automatic writer; Nick Hardaway, a telepath with remote viewing capabilities; and Emery Waterman, a young post-cognate. The group meets with Steve Rimbauer, the last descendant of Ellen and John Rimbauer, in an auditorium at the college. Bollinger takes a photo of the group joining hands in a circle, and the photo and an article ridiculing Joyce are published in the campus newspaper. Dr. Miller takes Bollinger to Rose Red and drops him off, instructing him to obtain additional embarrassing photos once the group of psychics arrives. The reporter is greeted by Sukeena at the front door, who tells him that he is expected. Not realizing she is a ghost, Bollinger enters the mansion. He becomes trapped in the solarium, where he is pulled off-screen by an unseen force.
The back-stories of psychics Emery Waterman and Annie Wheaton are introduced. Emery Waterman is a rude, sarcastic, and obnoxious young man under the control of his domineering mother, Patricia Waterman; when he sees spirits from Rose Red, he caustically tells them they can't scare him off because he needs the money. The audience learns that Rachel Wheaton now cares for Annie Wheaton, who rarely speaks and who refers to Rachel as "Sister". The audience also learns that Joyce is having a sexual affair with Steve, although the film remains unclear whether she loves him or is merely using him to gain access to Rose Red.
Joyce and the group of psychics, now joined by Rachel "Sister" Wheaton and a teenaged Annie Wheaton, arrive at Rose Red. The team tours the mansion. Joyce and Steve point out that the home contains many optical illusions as well as an upside-down room and a library with a mirrored floor. The team finds Bollinger's cellphone, and Steve calls Miller to confront him over his attempt to discredit the group. That night, Emery sees the ghost of an actress that disappeared from the house decades earlier; Pam dreams of the decomposing body of Kevin Bollinger; the Wheaton sisters are visited by a ghost under the bed and in the closet; and Cathy sees something moving under the carpet and her blankets. Later in the night, Pam is lured outside by a doppelganger into the garden pond and is presumably drowned.
The next morning, when Dr. Miller receives Steve's voicemail message, it instead says that Bollinger slit his wrists and wrote Miller's name in his blood before expiring. The message unnerves Dr. Miller and he goes to the mansion to learn more. Patricia Waterman also has driven to the mansion after being unable to reach her son via his cell phone. The two arrive simultaneously, and their cars collide in the driveway when Mrs. Waterman swerves to avoid what she believes to be a figure running across the road. Terrified, Mrs. Waterman begins to run through the forest on the grounds of the mansion while calling for her son. Miller, wanting to get her insurance information, pursues her. Inside Rose Red, Emery hears his mother's cries but dismisses them as an auditory illusion created by the haunted house.
On the other side of the house, Pam leads Vic into the garden toward a pond with a statue of Ellen in it. She suddenly disappears. When Vic looks down into the pond, he sees what he believes to be Pam's dead body. He attempts to pull her out of the water, but the body vanishes and he is left clutching only her nightgown. He panics and runs back toward the house. Looking back, he sees the statue come to life and has a heart attack. Vic tries to draw the attention of Emery (who is inside the house), but Emery again believes this to be an apparition and refuses to open the window. Nick arrives and tries to open the window, but it will not open and the glass cannot be broken. Vic collapses and dies in full view of Emery and Nick. Out in the woods, Mrs. Waterman is stopped and knocked unconscious by the ghost of Kevin Bollinger.
Annie Wheaton has discovered a dollhouse that is a miniature replica of Rose Red. While standing on a chair in an attempt to reach the dollhouse, she falls and is knocked unconscious. Rachel Wheaton and Steve Rimbauer see her fall and attempt to render first aid. Meanwhile, on the other side of the house, Rose Red's windows and doors mysteriously open again. Emery Waterman, realizing that his mother's screams were not an illusion, rushes outside to look for his mother. He runs into Dr. Miller, who warns him to stay away and then flees. Emery chases Miller but cannot catch him, so he returns to Rose Red. Miller, continuing to frantically run around the grounds of the house, is found and attacked by the ghost of Kevin Bollinger.
Emery attempts to convince the others that they should all leave. They refuse, and Emery tries to depart on his own. As he does so, he runs into the ghosts of Pam Asbury and Deanna Petrie (Yvonne Sciò), the movie star who vanished in the house in the 1940s. Emery has the power to make apparitions disappear by repeating the phrase "not there," and avoids the deadly fate of his mother and Dr. Miller. As Emery is about to leave Rose Red, Annie Wheaton wakes and via psychokinesis causes the doors of Rose Red to slam shut. Emery's hand is caught in the door, and some of his fingers are severed. While the others assist Emery, Joyce Reardon asks Annie to continue to keep the doors and windows sealed, promising to give her the dollhouse if she does so. However, Steve soon discovers that he is able to communicate with Annie telepathically, and she begins to form a friendship with him.
Later, Steve relives some repressed memories of a visit to the house with his drunken mother during which a ghostly Ellen Rimbauer appeared to him and called on Steve to aid her in continuing Rose Red's unending construction. Meanwhile, Emery suspects that Annie, not some "spirit of Rose Red", is keeping the house sealed. Nick confirms Emery's suspicions, and then informs the group that Bollinger appeared to have hanged himself in the library. The group begins to speculate that Rose Red has never been in a dormant state, and that the mansion's supernatural powers are linked to Annie and Steve (whose psychic abilities become apparent only when he is in the house because of his familial connection to the property). Nick correctly guesses that Joyce brought the psychics to the house in an attempt to reawaken Rose Red rather than simply investigate it.
The wounded Emery suggests that Annie be killed in order to allow everyone to escape, alarming the rest of the group. While in the kitchen, Cathy Kramer is attacked by Mrs. Waterman and is rescued by Nick. The two decide to tie up the deranged woman and leave her in the kitchen. They agree not to inform Emery so that the unstable young man does not become more unbalanced. A ghostly Sukeena appears and drags Mrs. Waterman off into the dark wine cellar. As Nick and Cathy head back toward the main hall, the house changes around them and they become lost. A mysterious shape under the carpet chases them, and they flee. The shape begins to catch up to them, and Nick shoves Cathy into a room and slams the door behind her, turning around just in time to see a skeletal monster rushing up to him. With silence in the hallway, Cathy opens the door again but finds no sign of Nick or the entity in the empty hallway. As the house continues to change around her, Cathy ends up in the attic. Suddenly overcome by the urge to automatically write, she witnesses the murder of John Rimbauer by Ellen and Sukeena. Steve and Rachel, meanwhile, decide to look for Nick and Cathy. They find Cathy in the attic, where she is about to be attacked by a corpse-like creature. Their presence seemingly prevents the house from acting, and the corpse drops lifeless to the floor. The corpse's withered arm lets them deduce that the carcass is that of Steven's missing great-aunt (and Ellen's daughter), April Rimbauer. Suddenly, April's corpse releases a bright white light from its mouth and instantly disintegrates.
The group reunites in the main hall. Emery attempts to attack Annie with a fireplace poker. Using psychokinesis, Annie animates a suit of armor and attempts to kill Emery with a halberd. Neither attack succeeds, and Joyce calms both individuals. In an attempt to uncover the secret of Rose Red, Steve creates a telepathic link between Cathy and Annie, and Cathy begins to engage in automatic writing. Annie begins to draw pictures of boulders striking the house, smashed doors, and broken glass, and soon doors and windows all over the house are opening and closing violently and glass in the windows shatters. Rocks begin to fall, destroying Mrs. Waterman's car and causing severe damage to Rose Red. Cathy automatically writes "help us" and "open the doors," prompting Annie to unseal the house. Steve, Emery, Cathy, Rachel, and Annie make their escape from Rose Red, but Joyce, now clearly insane, refuses to leave. The group is attacked by the spectre of Ellen Rimbauer, but Annie prevents Ellen from coming after them. Mrs. Waterman's ghost leaps from a mirror and attempts to draw Emery into the spirit realm, but Emery, with the assistance of Steve and Cathy, resists his mother for the first time in his life, and Mrs. Waterman vanishes again. The survivors flee to their cars as boulders rain down on Rose Red. Back in the house, Joyce suddenly realizes too late that she does want to leave, but is surrounded by the ghosts of Rose Red: Nick, Pam, Vic, Mrs. Waterman, Miller, Bollinger, Sukeena, and Deanna Petrie. She screams in terror as the film fades to black.
Six months later, the survivors visit Rose Red, just before the mansion is due to be demolished and replaced by condominiums. They pay their last respects to the dead by laying red roses on the path leading up to the house. As they drive away, the ghosts of Ellen Rimbauer, Sukeena, and Joyce watch the survivors depart from the tower window.