When it comes to the spooky month, you can never go wrong with stories from the horror maestro Stephen King. Even if you aren’t necessarily a fan of his books, King’s film and television adaptations have creeped us out for decades. Now, thanks to Hulu, you can stream Rose Red, an amazing and often overlooked miniseries that will chill you to the bone.
Rose Red is unique among Stephen King’s work, as the mini-series, now on Hulu, wasn’t an adaptation of his books, instead, it was a movie original.
What makes this miniseries a bit different from most Stephen King multimedia productions is that (unlike other classic miniseries such as It), it isn’t based on any pre-existing novels. Instead, Rose Red began as a movie idea that King pitched to Steven Spielberg, one of Hollywood’s biggest bigwigs. King wanted the movie to be like a remake of the 1963 film The Haunting, but he soon ran into a big problem: a proper remake of The Haunting premiered in 1999, forcing Stephen King to go back to the drawing board.
Accordingly, Rose Red was transformed into a miniseries, though the story still had elements of The Haunting in it. Some of the changes were fueled by production needs, including shifting the setting to Seattle (it was originally Los Angeles) after ABC managed to snag the appropriately spooky Thornewood Estate in Lakewood. Fortunately for Stephen King, ABC went all-on on marketing the new miniseries, devoting a cool $200,000 to hyping it up in a variety of creative ways.
What is the final Rose Red product about, though? It begins with a university psychologist leading psychics into a Seattle mansion (the titular Rose Red) to prove the existence of paranormal phenomena. While it sounds like it could be the cold opening to a Ghostbusters remake, there’s not much comedy in this Stephen King miniseries. After the psychologist and his team awaken angry spirits, everyone is stuck in a fight for their lives in one of the spookiest places on Earth.
Which stars help to bring Rose Red to life? Nancy Travis plays the lead psychologist in question, and she is surrounded by some great character actors, including David Dukes (this was his last role, as he died of a heart attack during filming). Another addition to the cast is Emily Deschanel, and it’s really fun for Bones fans to see her in the investigation business years before she’d link up onscreen with David Boreanz.
When Stephen King’s Rose Red came out, it was a major success with audiences and had an average of 18.5 million viewers across three nights.
Stephen King also makes a cameo in the movie, but nothing he does onscreen could be quite as wild (or scary) as he went through while writing Rose Red. The prolific author was hit by a car shortly before he was going to start drafting, and he had to undergo surgery and then spend a month in the hospital.
That sounds terrible, but it may have been an unexpected blessing: King would later describe how he used the writing process to help numb his pain from the accident, and he stayed motivated by the knowledge that the more he wrote, the quicker he could feel human again.
After Stephen King helped deliver a sufficiently spooky script, it was up to ABC to market Rose Red, and they did a scarily good job. The network hired Ridley Pearson to create a tie-in novel, and taking their cue from The Blair Witch Project, ABC presented the novel as a nonfiction work that the miniseries was based on (the network also created a fake website for Beaumont University, where the lead psychologist in the series works). The novel was such a success that it eventually spawned a later prequel miniseries titled The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer.
Rose Red was one of the projects Stephen King worked on after his life-altering accident.
When Stephen King’s Rose Red came out, it was a major success with audiences and had an average of 18.5 million viewers across three nights. In the days before streaming, this was a bona fide television event. And even for modern audiences with thousands of hours of entertainment at their fingertips, this miniseries still has the power to chill you to the bone.
Ultimately, Stephen King has produced some of the scariest stories in horror history, and Rose Red is no exception. Now that the series is available to stream on Netflix, an entirely new generation is about to feel the fear. After you watch it, don’t blame us if the next haunted house you hit up this spooky season is more fearsomely frightening than you ever expected.