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Rose Red

Entry updated 6 March 2024. Tagged: Film.

Short film (1994). BFI Production, Channel 4, Konnick Films. Directed by Simon Pummell. Written by Simon Ings and Simon Pummell. Cast includes Jennifer Calvert, Carolyn Choa, Simon Henshall and Sian Thomas. Colour. 19 minutes.

Detective Thomas Shaw (Henshall) has a recurring dream in which he pulls a woman from the sea, but then commits a violent act against her. In his waking life, he is called into a laboratory to investigate the theft of vials of Rose Red, an immune-suppressant which is used by a company involved in Virtual Reality experiments. While there he sees a volunteer jacked up in a tank of water get killed when the system is hacked. Security footage leads Shaw to an abandoned warehouse where he finds the culprit is the woman from his dream (Thomas), who was the victim of a sexual assault when being rescued from the sea and has been scared to go in water since; she is also the creator of the virtual reality system, which in order to work requires users to be floating, preventing her from being able to experience it. Pretending to help her overcome her fear to enable her to get into a water tank, he kills her instead.

Whether for budgetary or aesthetic reasons, VR itself is never shown. Laudably ambitious for a narrative short film, Rose Red does not perhaps have enough space to fully explore the themes it raises. As a result the crime is solved unconvincingly quickly, and the contrast between VR as a paradise, as one character puts it, and its darker side is overly schematic. Some of the images, particularly of naked characters thrashing in the VR tanks, are memorable. [CWa]


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