London Film Festival
Saturation point reached an all-time high for vampires several years ago; starting with 2008’s Twilight and perhaps most recently explored in the BBC’s take on Dracula, the monster’s story has been firmly and thoroughly told, with varying degrees of success. It comes as no surprise, then, that today’s filmmakers are looking outside of the box to re-invigorate the sub-genre.
Such is so with Rose: A Love Story, a film in which a vaguely interesting if not entirely ground-breaking trope is subverted and played down to an almost non-existent effect. Rose (Sophie Rundle) and her husband Sam (Matt Stokoe, who also serves as a writer) live isolated from the rest of the world alone in a cabin in the woods, although it is not immediately clear why. She writes, whilst he maintains the household and protects the bubble in which they live, providing himself with rabbits and her with his own blood for sustenance – referring to her condition as a ‘disease’ she has contracted from an unknown source, it manifests itself as dark(er) veins running through her pale body and clouded eyes, rendering it visually uninteresting.
Rose: A Love Story will, unfortunately, remain in the unremarkable category of 2020’s horror outings…
Clearly priding itself on its ingenuity, the film, helmed by television director Jennifer Sheridan, refuses to provide any of the basic information needed. Whilst commendable in its desire to remain ambiguous, its characters then suffer; instead of an understanding of how they came to be, their personas simply aren’t there – Rose’s anxieties about her ordeal are briefly touched upon, whilst Sam’s concerns are almost non-existent, his character irritatingly written as a doting, near-perfect husband.
A major issue with the brief 86-minute runtime is pacing. The film chooses to focus on the relationship between the couple and the daily grind of their new reality, but it takes over half the runtime for them to encounter any real conflict in the form of an outsider. With little time left to explore the new dynamic, it then rushes through to the end without much satisfaction to be had, a (very) short, sharp burst of tension unfolding within the last five minutes, yanked out of thin air and hurried to reach its end. Despite most of its concentration being on the leads’ dynamics and how modern-day vampirism may affect the couple, it remains bizarrely stilted, without much in the way of character development.
Disappointingly bland and mediocre in the pantheon of vampire movies, and believing itself to be smarter than it actually is, Rose: A Love Story will, unfortunately, remain in the unremarkable category of 2020’s horror outings, lost in the shadow of far-better fare.