Plot: Ellen Rimbauer (Lisa Brenner) is a new bride and one of the gifts bestowed upon her by her husband is Rose Red, a luxurious mansion being built to the couple’s exact specifications. The house remains under construction even after the couple moves in, while Ellen remains at home in most cases and Mr. Rimbauer (Steven Brand) travels for work. As she learns more about her new husband, Ellen discovers he harbors some dark secrets and in addition to his womanizing ways, a lot of people close to him have vanished under strange circumstances. Meanwhile, the couple grows apart and his antics escalate, all while a series of unexplained events within Rose Red have everyone inside on edge. Is Rose Red haunted and if so, is there some connection between the hauntings and the dark secrets of Mr. Rimbauer?
Entertainment Value: Stephen King’s Rose Red was a hit as a television miniseries, so it spawned this prequel to give fans more of the haunted house, though King wasn’t the writer this time around. The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer is still anchored in the world of Rose Red however, from the house to some of the characters, so it feels very much connected to the original. The narrative is fine, as it shows us how the house became home to all the various spirits and evils, but this is a feature not a miniseries, so things aren’t explored in depth. The movie is restrained, as this was made for television, so while there is some potential here, there’s no way to go for broke given the standards and practices involved. This is especially evident when it comes to Mr. Rimbauer, who is shown as a real sleaze and general villain, but the movie is unable to take him to the dark places that seem so needed. In other words, there are some interesting elements in this one, but not much materializes beyond the basics, thanks in part to television’s tighter censors. The end result is a simple, straight forward haunted house movie with some flashes that it could have been more.
This was a television production, so despite Mr. Rimbauer’s perverse nature, no sleaze is showcased here. I wish we could have seen his dark side fully embraced here, as it would have added so much tension and twisted atmosphere, not to mention really highlighted how the house drew so much bad voodoo. But instead, we get some light talk about his proclivities, but that’s as far as it goes. No blood. I wouldn’t call this a slow burn, as it doesn’t focus on tension or eerie vibes much until close to the finale, so it feels more like a romance novel than horror movie. But as the end nears, the spookier side of the material shines through and while not soaked in blood, at least some ghostly elements pop up. The dialogue is mediocre at best, often flat out dull and forgettable, but Mr. Rimbauer has some fun lines at times and his banter with his wife can yield some humorous moments. On the craziness front, I suppose Mr. Rimbauer’s dysfunction is worth one point, but for the most part, this one is straight forward and does little that stands out as memorable or unexpected.
Overall Insanity: 1/10