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Scarecrow on Seattle: ROSE RED

For the past few years, Scarecrow Video has been contributing reviews of movies made in the Pacific Northwest to the Seattle Office of Film + Music's e-newsletter. We're now proud to be able to share these reviews on our site as well.






Rose Red (2002)

During a "making-of" featurette on the DVD of Rose Red, Thomas Brodek, one of the producers of this made-for-TV film, gazes down towards the Space Needle from Kerry Park. As he reclines in the "Changing Form" sculpture he praises the city of Seattle, "Isn't it gorgeous?" And then utters a warning: "Little do they know that 800 people are going to descend on the city to make a six-hour mini series called: Stephen King's Rose Red!" When all is said and done, this three-part movie is one of the more ambitious projects connected to the Seattle area. King's screenplay is partially based on the real (and bizarre) Winchester Mystery House in San Jose combined with a riff on Shirley Jackson's classic novel The Haunting of Hill House. The script also incorporates a few story elements from the famed horror novelist's own canon (especially The Shining and Carrie).

The story follows a troop of psychics (including celebrity Scarecrow customer Kevin Tighe) led by paranormal psychology professor Joyce Reardon (Nancy Travis) investigating an abandoned, cursed, and haunted mansion called Rose Red. According to Brodek, the filmmakers scouted all over the US and Canada before they found Thornewood Castle in South Tacoma and realized the advantages of setting their spooky movie in Seattle. At the time Thornewood Castle was in bad shape, so the producers actually restored the building (both inside and out) to recapture its gothic charms. These days the building is a bed and breakfast so, for the right price, you too can spend the night inside Rose Red!

Some of the movie was shot inside the "castle" but there were also a bunch of enormous sets built in the hangers at Magnuson Park to help flesh out the sprawling mansion. In the actual film Rose Red is located on Spring Street near the base of Capitol Hill . A mock, vine-engorged gate was built on 8th Avenue, and there are several shots of parked cars and people standing around with the genuine west-bound Spring Street view (capturing the I-5 bridge and downtown) in the background making for a very believable illusion. On the other hand, there is a crazy alterno-Seattle matte shot used for aerial shots of the overgrown mansion. The view looks northwest from Capitol Hill with Rose Red planted roughly where The Polyclinic is located. The confusing image sticks Mount Rainier on the northern skyline and mostly obliterates Fremont, Ballard, and the Aurora Bridge.

During the opening credits, the camera lovingly ogles a ferry making its way across Elliott Bay as a sailboat elegantly scoots by. The shot transitions to a pan of the cityscape viewed from Seattle's cinematic go-to vista, the aforementioned Kerry Park on Queen Anne. A character works at Ivar's Acres of Clams and even wears her uniform while using a payphone with Pier 55 in the background. The team of psychics first bond and reveal their special powers over a couple of pitchers at The Ram brewpub while a Huskies game is on TV. Some of the coolest local stuff takes place as the haunted history of Rose Red is revealed. Several scenes mix older-looking parts of Pioneer Square with special effects to create a believable historic version of the city. For example, one flashback is set in 1906 and shows the old South Jackson waterfront streetcar with an antique Bartell Drugs sign in the background and people drinking in the historic Merchants Café. Despite this TV movie's derivative story, it is still a fun ghost flick that mostly stays true to its location. The imaginative and resourceful use of the Emerald City makes Rose Red a worthy addition to the Scarecrow on Seattle archives. -Spenser Hoyt


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