It is considered the old school version of 'Haunting of Hill House'. Which one do you prefer?
It is true that King has some major hits under his name but a lot of his brilliant work is still not very popular among the audience. Case in point for Rose Red. Before penning this horror story, King flirted with the idea of writing a dense haunted house story, and then he chose to tell this story through a television mini-series.
Titled Rose Red, the three-part miniseries is about a mysterious home in Seattle that keeps on 'building itself' without any sort of external help. The events of the miniseries are inspired by a very real and allegedly haunted house that actually exists. Even though the series didn't have the creative freedom like today, Rose Red is one of King’s most ambitious and fascinating works.
Even before King came up with Rose Red, he was asked multiple times why he hasn't attempted the haunted house genre in his storytelling yet. To this, King said that the best haunted house novels have already been written. It is none other than Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House and Henry James’ Turn of the Screw. In his nonfiction book Danse Macabre, King called both these books as the "only two great novels of the supernatural in the last hundred years.”
If you have read The Haunting of Hill House and watched Rose Red, you will understand how much the series is inspired by the novel. Shirley Jackson's novel tells the story of a team of investigators and psychics who go to a famous haunted house to find out the actual story behind it. Meanwhile, Rose Red follows the story of a psychology professor, a team of psychics, and a gifted girl who unleash spirits and discover secrets in a supposedly dormant haunted mansion.
But the master of horror also drew influence from real-life stories. Along with Shirley Jackson's work, King was also inspired by the Winchester Mystery House. Known to be one of the most haunted houses in America, it is not a place for the weak-hearted.
In case you didn't know, the haunted mansion was built by Sarah Winchester, who is the heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, that sold a lot of arms and ammunitions in WWI and WWII. With the fortune she inherited after her husband's death, she used the money to build a Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion. Sarah was a superstitious woman and was left shaken by an encounter with a Boston-based medium, who told her the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles needed a home.
The house is a maze. It is full of strange hallways and dead ends that are meant for confusing people, or if you believe Sarah, the spirits that resided in the house. It was also very clearly an inspiration for Rose Red. Ellen Rimbauer, the widowed heiress in Rose Red, kept building her home, similar to Sarah's and it was full of confusing rooms and riddles.
If a haunted house story is not your thing, then also you should check out the mini-series just for its cast. Nancy Travis perfectly portrays the character of a woman who becomes more and more unhinged as the story progresses, Julian Sands is the perfectly creepy psychic who seems to see and know all about the dangers, and Jimmi Simpson plays the perfect role of a journalist who tries to unravel Reardon’s project.
All in all, Rose Red makes for a brilliant watch, and watching King's take on a haunted house is also pretty enjoyable. Check out the trailer below: