After a year of isolation thanks to the pandemic, what better film is there to watch to escape it all that one about a couple who are living in isolation, shielding themselves thanks to a deadly disease?
Okay, so Rose might not be the respite that we need right now, but beneath the surface the film is actually far closer to traditional horror/classic storytelling than it might initially seem.
Sam (actor/director Matt Stokoe) and Rose (Sophie Rundle) live in a remote cabin, carrying out a solitary existence surrounded by trees and nature, but far detached from civilisation.
Rose is suffering from an illness and needs to remain far away from the wider population. Sam is therefore given the responsibility of being her carer, tending to her and acting as hunter-gatherer for the pair.
Although the situation is far from ideal, the couple manage to keep things together, much like many families have done in recent months in the real world – adjusting to the alien situation as best they can. Sam occupies himself by making sure that there is food, warmth, shelter and checking on the alarm system they have installed. Rose writes a book which helps her cope with her bleak situation.
As the story unfolds, the love element emerges. We learn that Rose’s affliction is actually vampirism and at once the desperateness becomes clear. Rose can’t control her urges and needs to be watched and controlled to prevent her from carrying out murderous acts. And as Sam loves her, he willingly acts as guardian, not wanting anything bad to happen to her and sacrificing his chances of living a ‘normal’ life. This something that doesn’t sit well with Rose, and she hates herself, feeling that she is holding him back. And so the tragic cycle is complete.
As usually happens in horror films, the delicate balance can’t last forever and just when Rose and Sam have found a way to survive in their new circumstances, something comes along to tear it all down. And that something comes in the form of a young girl named Amber (Olive Gray) who becomes entangled in one of Sam’s animal traps.
This has major implications. Amber is in danger of being eaten, and Rose and Sam are in danger of being hunted if they let her go. Will they have to give-in an let their inner monsters decide Amber’s fate? And as the factors relentlessly topple the fragile balance from side-to-side, it’s soon matter of predicting ‘when’ everything will collapse, rather than ‘if’.
Rose is a British-made, love/horror story which plays with many familiar filmic themes and dynamics.
The tale of doomed, forbidden love is one as old as the works of Shakespeare and Stokoe does well to give us his modern interpretation, while at the same time breathing fresh life into the rather stale vampire sub-genre.
Though quite watchable, Rose won’t keep viewers guessing for too long and one could argue that there isn’t enough ingenuity to make this film stand out from the competition.
It’s unfortunate as the performances by Stokoe, Rundle and Gray are compelling and the general idea is palatable.
Regardless, it’s a solid writing debut for Stokoe, which benefits from the extensive experience of director Jennifer Sheridan – both proving that they have what it takes to create compelling feature-length films.