One of my great personal fears is that one day I’ll accidentally go on Instagram Live while I’m on the toilet. We don’t need to go too deep into why. Better to focus on what will happen when I do: a small congregation begins to question my peeing technique; I get distracted, look at myself in the mirror, take off my shirt and tell myself truths, as my account goes viral; when I return to my phone, penis fully out, Doja Cat absolutely boils me in the comments section. Then there’s the aftermath: friends will pretend they didn’t see it, but they did; editors will find themselves less and less likely to send emails; my boyfriend, after watching a recap video on the LadBible Facebook page (how is this legal?), wants to leave me. All in all, I think the worst thing in the world that could happen to me would be “Having 1.2 million people look at me”.
Oh, sorry – where was I? Ah yes: BBC Three’s Red Rose launches this Monday at 10pm and it’s about the terrifying possibilities of looking at your phone. We’re in Bolton and I’m glad we are – everyone has a very satisfying, “Hiyaluv, to chip barm, yes, it’s hot today?” accent – and we follow seven teenagers called, and it feels incredible that I say this, Wren, Roch, Taz, Noah, Ashley, Antony and Pavlov. Everyone has just done their last GCSE and has a swig of sherry, a snot in a phone box and a full of am-I-invited-or-not? party about it, and all they really have to worry about is if they can get a job this summer, if their shoes are cool, and if their childhood friendship is going to last a lifetime or not. And then someone downloads “Red Rose”.
It’s a boom time for shows about teens that are sort of for teens but often end up not being, and Red Rose – from the same production company as Sex Education, and the same writing team behind The Haunting of Bly Manor – fits well into it. I’m not going to tell you what’s going on because I’m still not 1000% sure, but either a ghost or an app or both is terrorizing the group of oddly named teenagers for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on (again, it’s coming depending on whether it is a ghost or not).
You’re right to think that as a premise this sounds completely stupid and absurd – and not even in a delightful way – but Red Rose does two things very well: the classic, old-fashioned, rising sense of horror; and the way the teenagers talk, text, and get sick of never having pocket money—which keeps this planted in the real world enough to work. You remember that summer after your GCSEs, right? You still believed Wicca could be effective, you were painfully aware of how much income your parents had compared to your friends, and you were physically sick with jealousy every time someone had even a minute of fun that didn’t include you. Throw a haunted ghost app into the heady brew and they’d have you screaming through the woods in seconds.
Unfortunately, I can’t quite say whether Red Rose is “actually good” or “a good start that will be ruined by the sassiness of the reveal,” because I had to watch The Stranger on Netflix for this column two years ago, and I’m still hurt by the. For now, it’s worth focusing on what it does very well. All the young actors are fantastic, the North West setting feels real and deliberate rather than the result of someone going, “Where can we set this that isn’t London? Come on guys! It have to be a place in Britain it is not London!” and pointing blindfolded at a map, and it’s shot like a good thriller should be (I especially like how long some of the scenes and set pieces are made to last: the opening party after graduation, the opening horror movie, the walk-through-the-city-with-your-hands -in-your-pocket-things – a good hour of TV doesn’t have to change places every minute!).
Crucially, it will give you pause the next time you blindly click “Allow essential cookies” on a website or give an app access to your camera and microphone or install a complicated system of smart devices to control every aspect of your house . This is what good horror should do: make you scared, but not constantly terrified; make you aware of the supernatural, but also afraid of the darkness of the real world; be very, very careful where you point your phone camera the next time you go to the bathroom.