A curious mix of domestic thriller and folk horror, the creators of Where’s Rose attempt to blend familial dread and bucolic unease in a mysterious tale of identity and impersonation. Writer-director John Mathis tries to balance the disparate strands of his story, but the lifeless way in which the plot unfolds continually undermines his ambitions.
On the cusp of leaving home to enrol at a prestigious college, Eric Daniels is put on babysitting duties for his young sister Rose. At the end of a fateful night, Rose goes missing without a trace. When the youngster is found in the woods, her parents’ relief is palpable. But Eric is convinced that the entity living among them is not his returned sibling. As family tensions rise, and his own childhood friend is hospitalised, Eric begins to struggle with his own hidden secrets.
Most of the action of Where’s Rose unfolds in a sprawling wood-framed homestead deep in the forest. That should give any filmmaker goosebumps about the rich potential for atmospheric and disturbing visuals. Yet most of the film is framed like a small-screen family drama. When the camera moves outside, cinematographer Eric Gesualdo simply points his lens at the woods, or rigs a drone to fly above the treeline. There’s no sense of malevolence, mystery or magic in these images. And there are so few night-time exteriors that it seems like the crew were reluctant to work after sundown. The closing scenes of Where’s Rose do deliver some powerful revelations. Yet there’s a nastiness to those narrative twists that feel out of kilter with the film’s otherwise bland tone, while the muddled folklore falls flat.
WHERE'S ROSE is available on VOD in the US from August 30th