Monday, October 19, 2015

[Review] Crimson Peak

The always highly anticipated Guillermo del Toro has stressed that his latest effort Crimson Peak is a Gothic Romance instead of a Horror film. And in one of the film's opening scenes, the main character says the line "It's not a ghost story... it's a story that has a ghost in it," as she attempts to get her manuscript published. But don't get either of them twisted, this thing is still creepy.

Edith (Mia Wasikowska), a wide-eyed aspiring author, meets an aristocrat named Thomas (Tom Hiddleston). After a lengthy and loaded first act, the two eventually get married and move into Thomas' family mansion. It's quite a shabby and eerie place, which is a severe understatement. Snow falls through the deteriorating roof and the foundation is sinking into the ground. Oh yeah, and translucent skeletal ghouls lurk around (similar to the entity in 2013's del Toro produced Mama). Thomas' sister Lucille (an impressively vile Jessica Chastain) also occupies the quarters. From there, Edith grows weary as she attempts to unveil the secrets of Crimson Peak.

As expected, all of the visuals are extremely vivid and on-point, and there is a plethora of Perfect Shot candidates. Aside from the exquisite period flair and costume design, the densely detailed sets glow with shades of green and amber (and yes, crimson) among the shadowy corridors. Del Toro bestows his classic insect motif as moths hover around dusted lamps and flutter along tattered walls. The acoustics are nightmarishly amplified--every creek, croak, pound, and ghastly gust of wind commands attention. Between all the noises and dripping goop, the mansion essentially becomes its own character, ironically alive with deadness.

The story itself leaves more to be desired, especially by Guillermo standards. And the human characters are a bit flat, unmemorable (although Lucille's menace will stick with you), and clipped with questionable motives. But del Toro still strongly delivers with his sense-inducing aesthetics. Even when he claims he's not trying to scare your pants off, he still does a pretty good job at it.


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