The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer (2003) Review



While the movie has solid direction, a good score, and a great setting, there really isn’t enough going on here to recommend it to anyone other than Stephen King or Rose Red fans.

Plot: A prequel to the mini-series “Rose Red” sees the Rimbauers move into their newly constructed mansion, where all sorts of strange occurrences start to take place.

Review: The first time I saw Rose Red, I didn’t care for it much.  I just seemed so much like a cheap knock off on Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting and tread ground that King already covered in both Salem’s Lot and The Shining that it didn’t seem worth the effort. Watching it years later, I appreciated it better, which lead me to watch the prequel.

The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer started out as a gimmick, as a supposedly real diary that the main character from Rose Red, Joyce Reardon, apparently edited.  In actuality, it was a companion book written by a different author and ended up successful enough that they decided to make a movie about it the following year.

The movie itself is alright, though I don’t think it adds enough to the overall story to really make it necessary. It basically just explains who the Rimbauers are, and how Rose Red was weird from the start. That’s all well and good, but nothing was really revealed where I went “oh my gosh, I could never have figured that out on my own!”

The acting ranges from adequate to superb. I really liked Michael Brand, who played John Rimbauer. He is perfect as the selfish, amoral, and possibly deranged husband of Ellen. As for Ellen herself, Lisa Brenner is fine in the role of the title character, though I don’t really feel one way or another about her. The same goes for Tsidii Le Loka as Ellen’s confidant, Sukeena.

I will say that, for 88 minutes, the movie does take a while to get going. I don’t know if it was because the time in which the story is set, there’s not a lot for the main characters to do, or if it was just intended that way, but the movie feels draggy, and only begins to show life when John Rimbauer starts to turn into an utter bastard. Until then, I just shrugged.

The direction is solid – Craig R. Baxley is a veteran of King-adapted fare, with his work on Storm of the Century and Kingdom Hospital exemplary. He really understands how to frame characters to get the most out of them and the story, even if there isn’t much for him to work with.  The house itself is magnificent, a huge playground for both the living and the ghosts to have fun in. The score is perfectly suited to the action, often low and melodious, giving a feeling of disquiet, even where there is no visual reason for the watcher to feel that way.

I think the best way to describe this movie is adequate. It’s definitely not for everyone, and I would not recommend it if you have no intention of watching Rose Red, which is a more exciting story.  This movie is for people who both watched and appreciated Rose Red, as well as for any Stephen King completist out there. Otherwise, I think it would be somewhat dull and tedious for others.