Written by: Matt Patti | August 29th, 2022
Where’s Rose (John Mathis, 2021) 2½ out of 4 stars.
Writer/director John Mathis’ horror-thriller Where’s Rose is yet another supernatural tale of a seemingly innocent young girl that turns creepy and dangerous very quickly. It’s hardly the first film to do this, as it’s a very common trope to take a well-behaved young child and have them turn into something horrific. William Friedkin’s 1973 The Exorcist set the precedent long ago and there have been countless attempts to recreate the magic of that film over the years. While most don’t succeed, there’s always something inherently unsettling about a once-cute, happy, loveable child becoming sinister and terrifying. Through its first two acts, Where’s Rose holds enough interest due to this unnerving aspect but is otherwise nothing we haven’t seen before. However, its fantastic third act brings the film to a new level and makes it stand out from the pack.
The film follows the Daniels, a standard American family that lives in a small rural town. The eldest child, Eric (Ty Simpkins, Jurassic World), is a senior in high school and the captain of the local football team. He is sad to leave his friends and his younger sister Rose (Skyler Elyse Philpot, Ghosts of the Ozarks) behind, but overjoyed that he has a free ride to get into college on a full academic and athletic scholarship. One morning, Eric and his parents notice that Rose has disappeared. She is not in her bedroom, and no one can find her around the house. Soon after, shockingly, she turns up in a field a few miles away. Upon return, Rose is noticeably different, as she doesn’t remember certain events and doesn’t seem to like the same foods she once enjoyed. Eric seems to be the only one who notices, however, and he confronts his sister, claiming she is not the real Rose. That is not the only mystery afoot, though, as Jessica (Anneliese Judge, Annie Sullivan on Netflix’s Sweet Magnolias series), the babysitter responsible for watching Rose the night before she disappeared, has gone silent and appears to be hiding something.
The first two-thirds of Where’s Rose is just fine, featuring mildly compelling characters and decent performances from the cast. Philpot, specifically, is great as Rose. She portrays Rose’s happy, warmhearted side well in the beginning of the film and then is able to flip a switch and turn in a more chilling performance after Rose is found in the field. The film holds the audience’s attention for the most part with the mystery of why Rose is acting so differently and what information Jessica could be withholding, even if most of the surrounding characters are quite mediocre and forgettable and the plot is familiar and a tad cliché.
However, the last third of the film pushes it over the finish line in stunning fashion and makes the previous two acts better as a result, reaching a very satisfying conclusion that is actually quite unique and unexpected. Mathis (Midnight Runner) beautifully brings his vision to fruition in the final act, giving the film one of the most memorable horror endings that I’ve seen in a while. Almost every question that the audience has throughout the film is answered via a smart reveal, though there is still one large question that remains. The “surprise,” as I’ll call it, works perfectly as a twist should, by wowing the viewer, resolving strange events from earlier and improving the film as a whole.
Overall, Where’s Rose, thanks to that excellent conclusion, succeeds as a unique take on the “mysterious little girl” horror plot. The film also places itself in the good company of films that may be better the second time around. I’d imagine a re-watch of this film would be an intriguing experience. If one now knew how everything ends, there would likely be so many details one would pick up on that were missed in the first viewing. I can say that Where’s Rose is definitely a film that I won’t soon forget, making it a rare case in this all-too-common horror subgenre.