At one point in my life, Victor Salva was the master of nightmares. For some of you out there he’s probably that too, this is the guy who wrote and directed Jeepers Creepers, a film that’s a sort of induction into horror for a certain generation. His latest film Rosewood Lane comes nowhere near the same calibre of scare or even coherency of plot.
The story follows radio host Sonny Blake (Rose McGowan) as she ventures back to her peaceful childhood home after her alcoholic father’s death. Slowly the idyllic setting of sunny suburbia becomes more and more dangerous as she uncovers a neighbourhood terrified of the local paper boy (Daniel Ross Owens), a boy with seemingly inhuman powers. When the paper boy begins to call Sonny’s radio show and recite nursery rhymes, a game of cat and mouse begins with more than just her own life at risk.
The first major issue with Rosewood Lane is a pretty big one: the basic concept is bad. Playing out like a woeful Stephen King story, the concept of a sociopathic paper-boy doesn’t lift off the page well, in fact from start to finish you can’t stop thinking that this is a horror movie about a paper boy. Daniel Ross Owens isn’t outrageously bad in his role; the failings are down to his scripting mostly, but even after that he looks too old for the part. The character choices all point to someone trying way too hard to add “Evil Paper Boy” to the canon of American psychos; instead the film plays out like the perfect argument against such a travesty. The nursery rhyme reciting is laughable and cringe-worthy, and is one of a plethora of bad choices that marks the script as undeveloped. Another bizarre focus in the film is its constant profession that bikes are intimidating, which, even after a handful of close ups and sinister music, they are definitely not.
There are a lot of misdirected emotional scenes that play out like bad excuses to get the actors involved, which a shame is considering the fact the cast is actually pretty good. Ray Wise, as always, adds a touch of class to an otherwise dismal affair, playing a cop investigating Sonny’s stalker paper-boy. McGowan floats along giving a performance dented only by what she has to say, and everyone else looks like they’re on stand-by for better lines. Rosewood Lane fires a hell of a lot of blanks too, pushing vague strands of story out into the screen and pulling them back just as quickly. These half-hearted attempts at depth end up sinking the boat faster by not taking the story in a concrete direction. The film feels like it’s supposed to be an episode of something rather than a feature film and if there are any tense sequences or good jumps, they unfortunately come few and far between.
By the time the twist arrives you won’t care, the film’s snail pace and stunted story see to that. Rosewood Lane is not a film bothered by giving the how’s and why’s, instead it focuses too much time on taking itself too seriously. So between the ridiculous nature of the story, the stunted flow of the film, and the lack of real thrill, the piece falls flat and tedious. If the paper boy had been written differently and the film managed to sort its pacing out, then it might have been a mediocre attempt but, as is, it’s a messy and often silly state of affairs that leaves you wondering how Salva could have gotten it so wrong.
Dir. Victor Salva
Stars. Rose McGowan, Lin Shaye, Rance Howard, Luna Lauren Vinez, Lesley Anne Down, Ray Wise,