- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 26, 2002

Toward the end of "Stephen King's Rose Red," an awful ABC miniseries about a mansion that eats people, one of the characters compares the house to the Energizer Bunny.
"It just keeps going and going and going," he says.
The same thing can be said of the show itself. This six-hour stinker doesn't so much tell a story as string together scene after scene of people running around a haunted house and running into ghosts.
None of it makes much sense, and none of it is really scary, unless bad writing and directing send chills up your spine.
The show, which airs tomorrow, Monday and Thursday nights on WJLA-TV (Channel 7), stars frizzy-haired Nancy Travis as Joyce Reardon, a Seattle psychology professor who is obsessed with proving to her skeptical department chairman (David Dukes) that paranormal phenomena really exist.
Joyce organizes a field trip to Rose Red, an abandoned mansion at the edge of town (aren't they all?) where 26 men and women either died or disappeared between 1909 and 1950.
Joyce believes the house is "alive" and feeds off its victims. She aims to prove it with the help of six psychics she hires to spend the weekend with her under Rose Red's roof.
What a crew she assembles. The misfits include a creepy teen-age mute with a penchant for Glenn Miller music and an ability to move objects with her mind, a whipped cream-guzzling mama's boy who sees ghosts, and Judith Ivey as a Bible-toting woman who can channel spirits with pen and paper.
"I'd advise none of you to go wandering tonight," Joyce tells her companions during their first night in the house.
They ignore her advice, of course. So begins an extravaganza of cheesy special effects, including Oriental rugs that ripple across the floor by themselves, garden statues that come to life and rotting corpses that pop up in bed next to unsuspecting houseguests.
There's lots of hackneyed dialogue along the way (Joyce on haunted houses: "We say haunted, but we mean the house has gone insane"), and Rose Red eventually starts picking Joyce's crew off, one by one but no matter: These characters are so irritating that you'll find yourself rooting for the hungry house.
The actors give it their best shot, but even such capable performers as Miss Ivey aren't going to escape "Rose Red" with their reputations unscathed.
The miniseries is dedicated to Mr. Dukes, who died during the filming. He was a reliable character actor who specialized in playing uptight, stuffed shirts on shows such as "Dawson's Creek" and "Sisters," and it's a shame this ended up being his final performance.
According to ABC's publicity materials, Mr. King who makes a cameo appearance in the Monday-night installment of "Rose Red" was inspired by the Winchester House in San Jose, Calif. The popular tourist spot, built by the heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, was said to be haunted by the spirits of Indians killed by Winchester-brand weapons.
At one point, Steven Spielberg was going to film Mr. King's script for "Rose Red" as a feature movie. ABC says that the two "creative geniuses" had different movies in mind and that Mr. Spielberg amicably departed from the project.
Lucky him.
Mr. King's movies usually are based on his novels, but "Rose Red" is an original screenplay. A book has been published in conjunction with the miniseries: "The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer," which tells the story of Rose Red's beginning, as seen through the eyes of its original owners.
The campy book claims to have been "edited" by Joyce Reardon, and ABC has even set up a Web site for the fictional university where Joyce works. It's all part of a scheme to fool viewers into thinking the "Rose Red" story is real.
Perhaps if the makers of the miniseries had put as much imagination into the show as they did into its marketing, viewers would be better entertained.
For all its faults, "Rose Red" is really no worse than Mr. King's previous forays into television, which include recent adaptations of best sellers "The Stand" and "The Shining." No matter how bad these movies get, ABC keeps churning them out, mainly because millions of viewers keep flocking to them.
Now that's scary.


WHAT: "Stephen King's Rose Red"
WHERE: WJLA-TV (Channel 7)
WHEN: Three two-hour installments airing at 9 p.m. tomorrow, Monday and Thursday
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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