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Scarecrow on Seattle: THE DIARY OF ELLEN RIMBAUER

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.

 

 

 

 

 The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (2003)

Rose Red was an ambitious ABC TV mini-series written by Stephen King about a haunted house in Seattle. As part of the network's promotional blitz a mysterious book called The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer: My Life at Rose Red was published. Even though many suspected it was written by Stephen King, the tie-in was actually done by Ridley Pearson under the pseudonym of Dr. Joyce Reardon (the name of the main paranormal investigator in the mini-series). The fake "diary" ended up becoming a bestseller and Rose Red was a big hit. So what's any resourceful television network going to do with a hot property like this? Why crank out a quick, cheap TV movie to cash on the phenomena, of course.

Focusing on the events that precluded the haunting at the Rose Red mansion, Diary expands on the backstory, which was conveyed in a condensed form in the original mini-series, and establishes the characters that eventually become the ghosts. Set in the early 1900s, this gothic romance-styled haunted house film deals with the marriage between John (a wealthy oil baron/philandering jerk) and Ellen Rimbauer, the mysterious events surrounding their relationship, and their big-assed spooky mansion.

Like its predecessor, Diary was shot entirely in the Pacific Northwest and returning director Craig R. Baxley did his best to use many of the same locations. Most prominent is Lakewood's exquisite Thornwood Castle that serves as the exterior for the Rose Red mansion. Extensive sets for the original mini-series' interiors were built in the warehouses at Magnuson Park, but they were dismantled before ABC decided to make Diary and, consequently, the sets aren't nearly as cool this time around. I don't think any of the exteriors were shot within the city limits and the only glimpse of Seattle's skyline is a weird one indeed. The mansion is supposed to be located near the base of Capitol Hill with a panoramic view to the northwest. In both films this vista is a digitally rendered bizarro-world Seattle in which there's no Ballard, Wallingford, Fremont, or Phinney Ridge; instead Lake Union opens up directly into Puget Sound and Mount Rainier looms on the northern horizon. Rose Red incorporated existing landmarks into this shot, but since Diary is a period piece and there are no modern structures, the view is practically unrecognizable as the Emerald City. The filmmakers do make good use of several Tacoma locations including Point Defiance Park and the McKinley Hill neighborhood with its numerous early twentieth century homes. As an important contributor to the artistic design and antiquated setting of this modest TV movie the Tacoma scenes emphasize T-town's underrated cinematic versatility.

-Spenser Hoyt

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