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All It Lacks Is Abbott & Costello

TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

How many times can a best-selling author transfuse from the same blood supply?

As unoriginal as haunted house stories get, “Stephen King’s Rose Red” is his “Carrie” and “The Shining” meets “Ghostbusters,” “Night of the Living Dead” and the Psychic Hotline. Written by the prolific King, this overwrought, overacted three-parter on ABC is campy, not scary or even stomach-turning.

Laughter is the only option when Seattle college professor Joyce Reardon (Nancy Travis) and her team of six telepathic, pre-cognitive and post-cognitive telekinetics--everyone is here but the Amazing Kreskin--begin tiptoeing through Rose Red, a 95-year-old mansion that she believes has “eaten” 23 people since World War I. It was built by a relative of her boyfriend, Steve (Matt Keeslar), who joins her and the group for this weekend of cobwebs and corpses whose eyes open like a ventriloquist dummy’s.

Reardon’s agenda? She wants her band of high-strung paranormals to “awaken” Rose Red from its dormancy as a haunted mansion so that she can rescue her academic career by proving to a skeptical rival, the clownishly namby-pamby professor Carl Miller (the late David Dukes), that “the unexplained” really does exist.

Miller plots with a snotty campus newspaper reporter to undermine Reardon’s project. The least normal of her “paras” is 15-year-old Annie (Kimberly J. Brown), who expresses herself by making things explode. You’ll also meet nasty Emery (Matt Ross), who is terrified of his overbearing mother (Laura Kenny); trusting Cathy (Judith Ivey), who puts her faith in the Lord; and Nick (Julian Sands), who repeatedly gives Steve come-hither looks, obviously intending to out him as a ...

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POWERFUL PSYCHIC TRANSMITTER.

You needn’t be telepathic to anticipate what’s coming before King’s characters do. Obviously, they haven’t read his books.

When these slugs are warned “not to go off wandering,” expect one of them to wander. When someone says an antique phonograph player doesn’t work, you know music is coming. And when someone asks, “Is anybody here?,” expect the slime to hit the fan.

Second favorite line: “You shouldn’t go alone.”

But of course, someone always does. Put yourself into this picture. You’re in the dark, in a haunted house that is terrifying you. What do you do, all by yourself?

EXPLORE!

Such are the horror-film cliches of “Rose Red,” all the way through a convoluted and excruciatingly loud and chaotic Part 3, which yields one over-the-top performance after another as cast members take turns impersonating Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” These excesses are abetted by director Craig R. Baxley, the shame being that this miniseries is the final legacy of Dukes, who died of a heart attack during its production.

In Humans vs. House, you may find yourself pulling for the house. If only Rose Red had eaten the script, the real spooks here being its author and those at ABC that decided to drag this chalky cadaver across three nights.

“Stephen King’s Rose Red” will be shown Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights at 9. The network has rated it TV-14-V (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with a special advisory for violence).


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