Red Rose is a horror series set in Bolton, now airing on Netflix after debuting last summer on BBC Three. The series follows a group of teenagers who find themselves entangled with the very sinister titular app. While starting off promising, feeling very akin to the likes of Black Mirror, the end result is a little disappointing.
The first episode opens with a young girl leaving her school in Manchester looking scared. She arrives back to a dark and empty home and soon finds herself terrorised by sinister videos on the TV and lights and devices turning on by themselves. After being spooked by a figure inside the home, the girl climbs onto the roof and moments later is seen falling to her death on the ground below.
Six months later in Bolton, schoolgirls Roch (Isis Hainsworth) and Wren (Amelia Clarkson) are up on the moors discussing their final exams. They’re joined by friends Ash (Natalie Blair), Antony (Ellis Howard), Noah (Harry Redding) and Taz (Ali Khan) as they attend a party on the moors with the rest of their classmates. After getting drunk, the friends discuss their plans for the summer while Roch resents having to stay home looking after her twin sisters. When she’s forced to get Taz to pay her way into a school party, and after seeing best friend Wren breaking away to hook up with Noah, Roch leaves the party upset.
As she sits alone on the Moors, she receives a text from a school friend telling her to download an app. She follows the link and downloads Red Rose, which rather ominously shows Roch an altered video of herself with the slogan “Welcome to the new you”. At first, Red Rose appears to help Roch, offering her words of advice and comfort and even magically providing her with a new expensive outfit and money for the electric meter. However as Roch begins to rely more on Red Rose it’s clear the app is trying to control her and alienate her from her closest friends and family, with disturbing results.
My main reason for watching this show was due to the filming locations. Bolton is the town next to my own and along with Manchester is a place I know very well. Seeing the familiar filming locations and also a cast mostly full of northerners really gave me a lot of enjoyment when watching this. There’s a lot of northern humour which I loved and it’s obvious that creators the Clarkson Brothers take great pride in the fact that they’re from Bolton and it shows in this. One highlight for me was when one of the teenagers gets taken in by a group of drunken women, which is so incredibly Northern and exactly what you’d see on a night out. The fact that the series title is (I’m presuming) a nod to the flower of the county of Lancashire is also a nice touch.
The series starts off well and the first couple of episodes are intriguing and often quite creepy, with some rather engaging performances from the young cast. It has a great 90s soundtrack, although I’m not too sure why as this obviously isn’t set in the 90s, but it was still filled with some absolute bangers (Aqua’s Barbie Girl is a particular highlight). There are some wonderful pop culture references thrown in too that are very in keeping with the feel and tone of the series, and overall the whole show looks and sounds authentic and real.
I’d argue that the plot is far too similar to a couple of episodes from Black Mirror: the first half is very akin to Shut Up and Dance from season 3 and the latter half is similar to certain aspects of the season 2 White Christmas episode. And unfortunately, for me, the Black Mirror episodes were much better executed. The eight episodes here could have been drastically cut down to 6 at least, and there are certain scenes that aren’t particularly necessary or are far too drawn out. I also feel like this loses its way a few episodes in. It starts off incredibly promising and seems like it could be quite a creepy, horror-filled show, but instead it becomes convoluted as the plot goes off in a direction that is far too technology-based and over the top.
Red Rose had a lot of talent and the potential for a great story, brilliantly showcasing Bolton and the local area, however, it sadly loses its way and isn’t the horror thriller it could have been.
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!