'Red Rose' review: Killer app tale is sobering social (media) commentary

No one had the heart to tell the D**kheads that air horns were not exactly the best defence against haunted apps. Photos: Handout

There is this app, see – it lures you in with promises of delights, gets you emotionally invested, makes you willingly jump through endless hoops, and soon becomes your all-consuming focus.

Friends, family, obligations and financial considerations fall by the wayside as you get drawn deeper and deeper into its clutches.

But enough about my obsession with Pokemon GO. All this also applies to a "killer" app called Red Rose, the central and highly insidious download that features in Netflix's new teen drama/suspense/horror/social (media) commentary series of the same name.

Set in the English town of Bolton, the show revolves around a group of teenage friends who have just sat for their GCSEs and look forward to a summer of general mucking about.

A troubled girl named Rochelle (Isis Hainsworth) downloads the app, which promises to fulfil her every need.

Haunted by her mother's recent suicide and the family's financial struggles, she easily falls under its spell when things like fancy party outfits and knock-em-dead shoes appear as if by magic.

'Wow, no one told me Pure Evil is viewable in landscape mode too.''Wow, no one told me Pure Evil is viewable in landscape mode too.'

But sinister things are afoot, as ghostly images show up when she looks at her phone camera and the app starts issuing nasty threats.

Her relationship with bestie Wren (Amelia Clarkson) is strained, along with her ties to the rest of the gang (self-dubbed The D**kheads, replace the asterisks with the obvious).

And that's just part of what happens in the first episode (of eight).

To say more would spoil the surprises that Red Rose holds in store for the viewer, many of them unpleasant – it IS about the nastier aspects of life (and perhaps afterlife) after all.

Created by The Haunting Of Hill House co-writers Michael and Paul Clarkson, Red Rose is somewhat derivative of earlier techno-horror efforts but quite on the button in its depiction of growing pains (and the little triumphs to be celebrated in between), and the general obsession with our "smart" devices and social media.

'There ... that's 500 quid transferred to release the parcel of gems sent by my social media boyfriend from Customs custody.''There ... that's 500 quid transferred to release the parcel of gems sent by my social media boyfriend from Customs custody.'

Teenage angst is here in large doses but, unlike many other instances where it only tends to dampen the viewer's enthusiasm for a show, here it is quite organically woven into the proceedings.

The bottom line is, the fears and snappishness are made (mostly) relatable, and we easily get invested in the struggles of Red Rose's characters thanks to the uniformly fine performances of its cast.

(And besides, kids who make the kind of movie references like the ones here just have to be all right.)

As the evil forces behind the app slowly manifest, and the D**kheads struggle to keep up and stay alive, Red Rose gathers momentum towards a twisty, disturbing finale that brings closure of sorts while leaving the (back) door open for further incursions into our already-prodded-till-sore imaginations.

Sure, it can seem a bit convenient at times, with a few deus ex machina saves by the "guy/gal in the chair", but the overall result is an easily bingeable, thought-provoking ride.

While we're not saying anything about the real nature (in story terms) of Red Rose, perhaps its most terrifying aspect is the realisation that we breathe the same air as the forces that drive it.

Chilling to be sure, but we can take heart from the resolve and resilience of the D**kheads.

All eight episodes of Red Rose are available on Netflix.

7 10


The kids are alright

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