Poor Guillermo del Toro. I’m serious, that poor guy. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a brilliant filmmaker and overall storyteller. I haven’t seen ALL of his films, but from what I can gather they are very thematic, surreal, and/or enjoyably simplistic, with tales of epic or small scope, involving monsters and evoking a sense of poetic beauty about them and how “normal people” can have some kind of connection to them or how they and their world relate to them and their world. Not to mention the collaborators in his projects like Doug Jones, Ron Perlman, and others, which he must have a very good relationship with. The problem with him is he tends to have bad luck in pursuit of certain passion projects, like the difficulties in getting The Hobbit films made that led to him leaving the director’s chair but still credited as co-writer, the holdups and production problems of Hellboy 3 and Pacific Rim 2, and the cancellation of Silent Hills (of which the assholes that caused THAT, Konami, I WILL talk about soon), and usually what happened to them were circumstances beyond his control. However, he still announces A LOT of projects in various stages of development, and I get he has A LOT of ideas like anyone else, but it’s a wonder if any of them ever get done at all. At least he was able to get this one done, and it is beautiful. Hell, I’ll even say that Crimson Peak is BETTER than Pacific Rim (while I love this movie and Pacific Rim, I’m also saying it because if a certain PR fanboy I knew were reading this, he’d probably be annoyed, or move on with his life, who knows lol).
I love horror stories, be it books, movies, comics, and anything else. I like how they usually employ the different types of “horror” they evoke and the fears that people have, not to mention douchey idiots getting their comeuppance via grisly deaths (shut up I don’t have issues lol). One type of horror I love is Gothic horror. I love the scope of it, the architecture, the romanticizing, and of course the “horror” of it all, among other things. It’s funny that I talk about Gothic horror and this movie since I played the role of Renfield (the closest I’ll ever get to playing The Joker lol) in York Little Theatre’s rendition of Dracula in October and November of 2015, of which this movie bares a lot of similarities to that and the source material (that I haven’t finished reading but I’ve seen enough of the movies and know the overall gist of the story, plus again I based my Renfield performance on The Joker and also the various portrayals of him by Nicholson, Ledger, Monaghan, Hamill and even Leto from the previews I’ve seen of him).
Though this movie is typically more in common with Gothic romance and dark fantasy, it still is also in line with Gothic horror. Point is, it’s a very good movie and a great sendup of Gothic stories, and a breath of fresh air amongst all the lackluster horror movies that come out, be it remakes, endless sequels and followups, found footage movies, and of course the January horror movies that are either meh or shit because they come out in January for some reason (what is it with January and crappy horror movies? seriously). Also, this movie came out in October of 2015, so at least there are some horror movies that TRY to come out around Halloween. However, while it is very well-done, very beautiful to look at, very well-written and directed, not to mention acted, and it has some interesting twists and turns on the genre, it doesn’t exactly do anything new, but it’s still enjoyable. Plus it’s funny I’m talking about a horror movie that involves people going nuts while stuck in a big house during a blizzard while I was also stuck in my house during the recent blizzard that hit the East Coast and watched The Shining and John Carpenter’s The Thing to pass the time, which are about people being stuck in blizzards and going nuts lol.
I’ll admit, when I saw all the previews for this movie, I thought the “horror” of this movie would be ghosts or monsters, but I was kinda wrong on that. They are in this movie, but they’re not the main focus exactly. An obvious horror story to compare this to is The Shining (book and adaptations) and others similar to it of the haunted house type of story, in that while there are supernatural elements, they are not the main antagonist, rather a sort of driving force that turns the protagonist or one of the normal characters into a raving psychotic threatening others around them or that they’re already sinister and just driven more sinister while using their surroundings and others’ weaknesses to their advantage. Plus there’s a lot of snow in this movie, so that gives it more of a “shining” to it than ever lol.
Crimson Peak is about Edith Cushing (played by Mia Wasikowska), her relationship with the mysterious yet handsome Sir Thomas Sharpe (played by Tom Hiddleston, and the second male lead in a 2015 movie featuring Jessica Chastain, of whom we get to see his ass lol; seriously what’s up with 2015 movies starring Jessica Chastain that involve the male lead showing his ass? it happened with Matt Damon and The Martian, now with Tom Hiddleston and this movie, did it also happen with Oscar Isaac and A Most Violent Year? but I digress lol), her rivalry with his equally mysterious and beautiful sister Lady Lucille Sharpe, and the horrors she must confront in their decadent, beautiful, and decaying mansion nicknamed “Crimson Peak” due to the red ore mined by Tom’s inventions and his employees, and how its redness seeps through the snow. Her wealthy father Carter (played by Jim Beaver) is killed by Lucille after he reveals his knowledge of who and what the Sharpes are and the devious deeds they do, after they tried to get money from him to fund Thomas’s invention (ah the olden days without the modern use of crowdfunding lol) and he wants them to have nothing to do with his daughter. His private investigator Mr. Holly (played by Burn Gorman), confides his reportings to Dr. Alan McMichael (played by Charlie Hunnam), who tries to save Edith, but in the end actually manages to do fine on her own somewhat despite obstacles like being poisoned by Lucille and the ghosts of the manor and of her own mother (who actually warned her of her future at “Crimson Peak”).
Like I said, I love the sendup to Gothic horror here, and I mean that in a lot of ways for this movie. The scenery, environment, overall look and feel of the movie is just beautiful to look at. Really adds to the haunting and, well, as Ted Mosby put it, “hauntingly beautfiul” atmosphere of the film. The lighting, camerawork, cinematography, set design, practical and special effects, everything is just so beautiful and delicious (not edible lol) to look at. The acting of everyone involved, especially the female leads, puts an interesting spin on the types of horror characters audiences are used to. The males of course can be stern father figures, uncertain men that must decide what is the right thing to do and be mysterious about it, and of course the heroic figures that try to save the day and may die or get seriously injured. With Edith and Lucille, it’s a different story. Edith starts out as a confident woman trying to make it in a world that belittles women through a male-dominated landscape. She is forced to confront recent tragic events that test her resolve, like the death of her father, her relationship with Thomas with all its quirks, charms, and overall tragedy, rivalry with Lucille, the ghosts and spectres of her past such as her mother, and getting poisoned, but ultimately she triumphs in the end. Lucille is the exact opposite, but also a tragic figure. She can be just like her brother, but is more haughty, isn’t afraid to hide her true feelings (that being she’s in love with her brother and has an incestuous relationship with him, which I think Cersei Lannister would give pointers on lol), does whatever she can to get what she wants which include murder and matricide, and is also insane. Both leading ladies Wasikowska and Chastain should be commended for their roles, providing excellent portrayals of some of the most compelling horror movie heroes and villains in years.
There’s nothing wrong with homage, but sometimes if it’s done too much, it just looks like retreading on already familiar territory like Superman Returns aka “Superman Retreads”. Crimson Peak is great for its homage to more classical horror movies, its interesting twists and turns on the genre and its tropes, as well as a cool and scary addition to Universal’s library of horror movies, and I hope to see more like this in the future. And of course whatever del Toro has planned next, hopefully it won’t get cancelled or held up for too long.