The image you present of yourself online is you. It may be a curated you, with all the edges filed away to leave how you want to be seen, but others will glean much from what you post. With so much of ‘you’ out in the open, Red Rose asks what happens once a malevolent force takes over your online persona.
The concept of cyber-bullying has long since mutated from new age anomaly to a fiery dread path of passage. Shows like American Vandal (season 2 in particular) did an excellent job of covering both the detrimental effect social media can have on teenagers plus how it can easily be manipulated into blackmail hell.
Red Rose shifts the locale of such stories from the college campuses of the US to the industrial North of England.
What Is Red Rose About?
Roch (Isis Hainsworth) is struggling with a rundown house, two young twin sisters to care for, a father constantly absent for work, and the tragic loss of her mother.
Her life descends sharply after the mysterious app Red Rose promises to drape a filter over her in every conceivable way.
Hainsworth’s spiky inferiority complex makes a strong impact early on as does the fractured family life of her best friend Wren (Amelia Clarkson).
The gang is filled out by well-rounded characters such as Princess Diana-obsessed Ash (Natalie Blair), foot-in-mouth Taz (Ali Khan), and closeted Antony (Ellis Howard).
The on-screen reality of life for these school leavers in a town such as Bolton is somewhat undermined by the odd choice to compile a soundtrack plucked exclusively with hits from the 1990s (including a hauntingly slow rendition of Aqua’s Barbie Girl). Unlikely party bops aside, Red Rose treats its teenage cast with respect, and in return, they flourish.
Writers The Clarkson Brothers (producers of The Haunting of Bly Manor) ensure that the here-and-now stresses such as exam results and budding romance is inextricable from tense family situations.
The Red Rose app quickly shifts from giving Roch what she wants to taking over her online life; the shattering effect this has lands all the better for the connections skilfully written into the characters.
Red Rose Official Trailer
Is Red Rose Worth Watching?
Red Rose takes a multi-faceted approach to such modern horror to the extent that the situations explored can feel a little unfocused.
The destructive influence of the Red Rose app touches upon bullying, shaming, catfishing, like-fishing, stalking, deepfaking, and invasions of privacy. The petals of what Red Rose is are slowly peeled back through the episodes, but dabbling with séances, for example, is narrative busywork that adds nothing.
Despite the writers spamming the screen at times, Red Rose keeps its roots deep and secure. Bolton is a wonderful setting to explore the modern realities of the everyday UK teen where life is a world away from the trials and tribulations of distant Californians.
Whether it be rolling moors, run down terraced housing, past wealth grasped hard by those who inherited it, or roving clusters of sneering contemporaries, Red Rose does justice to seeking out stories in places other than yet another visit to London.
When almost every teenager has a smartphone in their hand you only need to pull back the diaphanous façade a little to see the black clouds roiling underneath. Red Rose respects this.
It unveils the glamour and takes the time to connect you with the people beneath it all, before unfurling crushing horror extrapolation. Click on the link, and see where it takes you.
Words by Mike Record