The Blue Rose - FrightFest World Premiere
Director: George Baron
Starring: Olivia Scott Welch, George Baron, Danielle Bisutti, Nikko Austen Smith, Glüme Harlow
Written by: George Baron
Produced by: Andra Gordon, Serena Khan
Cinematography by: Blaine Dunkley
Original Score by: Alexander Burke
Two rookie detectives set out to solve a homicide but end up in an alternate reality made up of their worst nightmares.
Inspired by the golden age of Hollywood and the dark, mysterious underbelly of the 1950s, 'The Blue Rose' is a solid homage to an influential era that sadly tends to rely just a little too much on borrowing from other films to really be it's own thing.
I hate George Baron. The dude started shooting this film when he was only 16 years old and completed it over his Summer break in 2021. Are you kidding me? How dare he? I'm joking of course. Baron is a very talented young writer and director and it's quite an achievement to not only complete a feature film at such a young age but to create something with such an artistic flair.
When Detective Dalton and Detective Lilly, two whipper snappers fresh out of the office and eager to make a name for themselves, are commissioned with what looks like a clear-cut homicide case, their lives are turned upside down and their realities transform into surreal, incomprehensible nightmares. As the investigation progresses both Dalton and Lilly slide deeper and deeper into the strangely ominous underworld of "Hollyweird" while meeting some curiously bizarre characters along the way.
'The Blue Rose' is a David Lynch love fest and there's really no getting around the fact that Baron has essentially borrowed most of what makes up the film from the likes of 'Blue Velvet', 'Twin Peaks' and even 'Lost Highway'. I love a good nod or throwback but when is it too much? In a recent interview Baron admitted that Lynch was "kind of the only male role model" he ever had. It's actually also based on a one night immersive theatre piece that Baron created, inspired by a friends surrealist artwork. Baron was so enamoured by the characters and story that he immediately wanted to expand it into a feature film and the project came together during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Baron is a theatre kid and you can see it throughout the film.
Baron doesn't shy away from his other influences which include Anne Biller's 'The Love Witch', 'Sunset Boulevard', 'Mildred Pierce' and the 2020 Netflix drama 'Ratched' created by Ryan Murphy and based on the early years of Nurse Ratched from 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'. I even saw a touch of Tim Burtons' aesthetic from the 'Edward Scissorhands' suburb applied to the film. Visually 'The Blue Rose' does share lot in common with the aforementioned projects but the story itself is classic noir. Baron even labelled the film a "pastel noir" which he describes as "the structure or general idea of a noir film, but you don’t make it look like a noir film." He was heavily influenced by pastel shades of pink, blue and green particularly early on in the film and then later some of the colours become more vibrant and almost neon.
Initially I thought some of the performances where a bit too over the top, which I do realise was a thing in the golden age of Hollywood, but as the film progresses and some of the more disturbing imagery and horror elements begin to rear their head I felt like the actors really pulled through. Olivia Scott Welch is fascinating as Detective Lilly and Glüme Harlow, as a mash up of Betty Boo and Marilyn Monroe, lights up every scene she appears in. Danielle Bisutti is a worthy pantomime villain and Nikko Austen Smith, who we're introduced to in a distressing sequence right at the beginning, gives a heartbreaking performance towards the finale of the film.
There's some really impressive imagery in the film and even though it looks like the budget is fairly smallish, it also feels like every single last penny was used to its fullest potential, which is just crazy admirable. (Did I mention that George Baron was 16 when he wrote and directed this!!!) Baron has been a self proclaimed horror fan since he was a kid (he still is a goddam kid!!!) and apparently there is even an obscure reference to 'Sleepaway Camp' here, though I didn't pick up on it on first watch I have a sneaky suspicion it's to do with Bisutti's Norma Steele character. There are several very creepy and unsettling sequences in the third act of the film that will land really well with any fans of Lynchian cinema.
'The Blue Rose' is a beautiful film. A noir-ish, genre-bending tribute to classic Hollywood but the similarities to Lynch's best films are just a little bit too on the nose for me.
- Gavin Logan
'The Blue Rose' received it's World Premiere at FrightFest '23 on August 27th