CRIMSON PEAK [2015]

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Directed by Guillermo del Toro, Written by Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston

Crimson Peak reminds one of Edgar Allan Poe scribblings, as the camera swoops around a giant, Gothic styled house, accentuating the beautiful arches and painstakingly designed windows. The look of this house is appropriately surreal, as an odd colour palette is used to give the film an almost fairy-tale quality. It flirts with the horror genre but subverts expectations, creating a movie that isn’t perfect, but if anything it is unique. It isn’t a scary film but it is filled with atmosphere and unanswered questions.

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The tale takes place first in America in the late 19th century. A family tragedy occurs near the beginning of the film, starting the horror for Edith (Mia Wasikowska) while also driving her into the comforting arms of Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who the young author falls in love with and marries. Make no mistake, while the horror tag may have been stamped on this film, it is more of a Gothic romance story. Edith travels to rural England with Sir Thomas and his sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain), to live in the giant mansion I mentioned. The Haunted House. Despite the tame nature of this first act, some characters act extremely passive aggressively, creating a tense feeling that hangs over the film, which turns into a slightly more unsettling atmosphere later on.

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Once Edith has moved in with Sir Thomas and his sister, she begins to see strange things. The effects used are chilling and remind one of a Silent Hill video-game – hellish creatures that seem to speak some sort of inescapable truth. Edith seems convinced that they are ghosts, but how does she know? Who are the ghosts, and what is their agenda? Of course only she is seeing them… Or is she? Personally I’d love to see this film again so I can answer these questions for myself as the film leaves it open to interpretation, which is nice for a change.

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Chastain plays the cold, unwelcoming sister to perfection and every time she is on screen she steals the scene, her face seething with bottled emotion. Without saying a word Lucille’s body language makes it obvious that she shares only disdain for her brother’s new bride, and regardless of the true love that they share, she seems intent on making Edith’s life as uncomfortable and as awkward as possible. This is how the romantic aspect of the film connects with the horror – the house is haunted, sure, but the set of events that Edith must experience emotionally are equally as horrifying as the creatures she sees.

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I’ll be honest, 99 percent of the time I can’t stand romance in films. It so often feels forced or tacked on at the last second, having nothing to do with the plot. Either that or it is simply too sentimental for my tastes. This film however is unique in its genre-blending, as the romantic scenes between Hiddleston and Wasikowska work within the context of the story. Not only do they share great chemistry but the love these two characters share is integral to the plot. It is also tastefully done; each time they embraced it felt right within the world the film creates; appropriately Gothic in nature as the romanticism within the horror framework is further explored. This may be typical fare for a traditional Gothic tale, but for the big screen I can’t think of anything that comes close. All I can think of is Stonehearst Asylum, and that is only because it too was based in a Gothic setting, also in rural England. But the similarities stop there. This film stands firmly on its own two feet, though I am sure there are examples of similar films that successfully blend romanticism with horror.

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Unfortunately the final act is a little underwhelming given the build-up; the reason being that the haunted house card is played subtly. Which is admirable for its attempt at something different, however the tale loses its heft because of this. It is also a tad predictable in this final act. But the rest of the film is so gorgeous to look at, whether it is the aforementioned Gothic styled mansion, the fluent camerawork or the extreme attention to detail regarding the period wardrobe… I can forgive the final act for feeling a little flat. Additionally, this 4.5 beer - no beer topisn’t the sort of horror film that has a pay off at the end. Rather, this story features a main character who is slowly going through a world of horrors as the film moves on, creating a character-study that is an interesting mix of desperation, loneliness, depression, madness and love. Crimson Peak isn’t perfect but it sure is an intriguing film. Recommended.

4 and a half beers out of a six-pack.

4.5/6

32 Comments on “CRIMSON PEAK [2015]

  1. I’ll take four and a half beers! I’m a fan of del Toro but felt a bit ambivalent about Pacific Rim. Some good things about it, some not so good. I’m off to see this tomorrow morning so don’t have much to add right now.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll have something up by Monday, probably. I thought it looked incredible…really stunning production design in terms of the costumes, interiors etc. And so colourful…but don’t think there’s much beyond that. In terms of the story it’s a pretty straightforward take on an old classic…bit disappointing considering how good it actually looks. But I didn’t hate it or anything…just left a little underwhelmed!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Fair points. I saw it in a slightly different way, probably because the story was new to me! But yeah, with you on the visuals. It set up that Gothic atmosphere so well. Hypnotising.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It did, I feel really conflicted about the film. I think the plot was pretty boring, and the characters I’ve seen so many times before, but he’s obviously got a lot of knowledge of that kind of literature and cinema. It looked and sounded great!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mmm yeah, it did feel like it could have had more energy injected into the characters, mainly Edith. I loved Chastain’s character though

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  2. I’ve been seeing the trailer for all over my TV for the last few weeks. I generally take that as a bad sign. Glad to hear it’s pretty good. Love the six-pack rating scale.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Its not scary for the most part, but I really enjoyed the Gothic nature of the tale. I’m obsessed with Poe so this one was right up my alley. I can count on one hand the amount of romantic films I like!

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    • Its not too scary! Though if hellish creatures aren’t for you then you may not like it. But its far more a romantic tale than it is a horror one.

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  3. Fine work my friend. I’m still interested in this but many seem to have fault with the story which is quite surprising from Del Toro. His imagination normally leads to great stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah I’ve heard a mixed bag of reactions, most not seeming to enjoy it the way I did. The characters aren’t all that original but for the story itself I found it filled a niche of Gothic romanticism that I had never really seen. I guess if you have seen other similar movies, it will affect how much you like it. Its worth a watch though, even if just for the jaw-dropping camerawork and set designs

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Crimson Peak debuted to surprisingly underwhelming reviews, so it’s good to see a more positive one for it. I’m not really high on Del Toro to be perfectly honest but this film looks way too cool to ignore. Gonna check it out on my 2-for-2 $6 movie session on Tuesday. Probably will lump this in with my viewing of Goosebumps. (I’m expecting that to be a disaster, we’ll see. 😉 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll be avoiding goosebumps hahaha. People are saying that the story is predictable but I didn’t get that feeling at all. It is also ridiculously good to look at, the movements of the camera and the purpose-built Gothic house look un-fucking-believable

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m looking forward to checking it out, that’s for sure. If nothing else del Toro is a great visual dreamer. Very interesting guy he is.

        Like

  5. Hey Jordan, though my friend Ted didn’t like this as it’s not scary enough for him, I’m still looking forward to seeing it. I’m actually glad this isn’t a gory or terrifying film, but more of a gothic romance thriller. “…the romantic scenes between Hiddleston and Wasikowska work within the context of the story” Glad to hear! I love Hiddleston and Chastain, so those two are another reason for me to check this out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chastain is just incredible in this Ruth, she really is starting to stack up some tasty roles. The visuals are also truly amazing, the Gothic styled house that the story takes place in was purpose built for the film.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Good review Jordan. It sometimes felt like, to me, this story didn’t really know where it wanted to go. It got better at the end, but that was after quite some time of relentless plodding.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point mate. An enjoyable film not without its share of flaws. If anything the cinematography had me hooked! Because of that I was probably a little too generous

      Like

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