Red Rose Review: A mediocre, occasionally dark horror about social media

An app that promises to meet all of your life needs? Sounds pretty tempting, especially now. More money magically appearing on the electricity meter? Yes, please. A new designer outfit for a big party? Hand it over. And the opportunity to get in touch with a dearly missed loved one? Sign up with us! However, there is always a catch with such big promises – and in Red rose, the new BBC Three horror series, has a huge catch. Created by Bolton-born screenwriting duo The Clarkson Twins, the eight-part drama explores what happens when dark forces take advantage of social media and teenage heartbreak to tear apart the lives of a young working-class community.

Within the first five minutes, the show’s eerie tone is set: a young girl leaps to her death from a roof. We do not know, why. All we can ascertain is a haunting presence watching their every move, hijacking their household appliances as they angrily turn on and off. There is also a strange shadow that follows her every step directly. It’s creepy stuff. Fast forward to six months later, and cheeky GCSE student Rochelle (Isis Hainsworth) and her friends have just finished their exams. Everything in her life seems to be about to change: Wren (Amelia Clarkson) is on the verge of a romance with her other pal Noah (Harry Redding), while the rest of the crew look forward to their summer jobs and generally drop out of the sub-school. However, the future looks more bleak than bright for Rochelle – she’s still grieving the death of her mother a few years ago and her family is struggling to make ends meet. In Bolton, the opportunities for change feel out of reach – or at least a few hundred miles further south in the country – and it’s daunting. She hides her worries with a tough, witty exterior, but she’s insecure, insecure, and lonely.

That’s why she’s an ideal target for the mysterious app Red Rose. At first it’s a stroke of luck: money and clothes come easily as her social star begins to rise. But the good times don’t last long. At the party, Red Rose tells her to kiss Noah in front of everyone, betraying her closest friend. If she refuses, the app threatens to show CCTV footage of her waiting in line at the board for all to see. She can’t face the shame of her peers seeing her struggle, so she obeys and begins allowing the app to have an unshakable grip on her life. Soon Red Rose is in control of Rochelle’s entire virtual existence, sending alarming text messages on her behalf and making unusual posts on social media. Things get frosty real quick and it’s up to the teenagers to stop Red Rose’s mania before it takes over everyone.

In many ways, this show captures the complexities of teenage life – jealousy, anxiety and the fear of missing out feel relatable and familiar. The talented young cast brings the dialogue to life and makes the characters feel grounded in both their playful banter and their understandable fears. Still, Red rose suffers from a clash of big ideas all vying for our attention at once: virtual reality, ghosts, exorcisms, mental health issues, and poverty. The show seems unsure of what it wants to be, and in its attempt to cover all the bases of the thriller genre, the story gets fuzzy. Hainsworth is charismatic at the helm of the ensemble, and you can’t help but advocate for her character to break free of the app’s sickening grip. But while other tech-heavy thrillers like black mirror approaching multiple concepts at once with finesse, this one would benefit from a reduction so we really feel the sense of panic.

Still, for all its harrowing moments, Red rose is full of alluring intrigue; Just like the Bolton teenagers on screen, you’ll want to know who’s behind the sinister app – and how to stop them before someone else gets hurt. Red Rose Review: A mediocre, occasionally dark horror about social media


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