† H a p p y H a l l o w e e n †
The man behind Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim gives the haunted house genre a try with Crimson Peak, a film where the promo material made me far more interested in the set and costume design than the story of the haunted house at hand. Having actually seen it, I still care more for the imagery than the story, even if the story isn’t a shabby one.
Directed, obviously, by the great Guillermo Del Toro, Crimson Peak takes place at the beginning of last century and tells of a wealthy young woman, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who aspires to write great and memorable ghost stories. This interest of hers likely stems from the fact that she is frequently visited by the spirit of her mother, always warning her to “beware of Crimson Peak”. Edith meets Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), the former having high hopes of getting funding for his latest mining invention from Edith’s father (Jim Beaver). Poor sap is basically Flik from A Bug’s Life.
Edith eventually ends up infatuated with Thomas, a fact which is looked down upon by both Lucille and Edith’s father, as well as Edith’s childhood friend played by Charlie Hunnam of “I narrowly escaped Fifty Shades” fame. Shortly, Edith’s father dies a mysterious death, which allows Edith and Thomas to start a relationship properly and move to his mansion together, which may not be as sweet as it sounds. Edith starts seeing more ghosts, and as time goes by, she uncovers horrible truths about Thomas’ former relationships. Knowing Tom Hiddleston fangirls, something tells me Edith doesn’t actually care. But also, if you know me, you know which male actor I myself went to see this film for:
As with most Del Toro films, humanoid-monster extraordinaire Doug Jones appears in multiple unrecognizable roles, but this is a special instance. He portrays two of the ghosts (one being Edith’s mother), while a few others ones are played by Javier Botet, who, like Jones, is also a slender contortionist turned actor. What makes this extra interesting is that Botet has previously played the sickly-looking zombie woman seen in the Spanish horror film series Rec. And wouldn’t you know, when the first Rec film was remade into the inferior 2008 movie Quarantine, Jones portrayed what was more or less the remake’s version of Botet’s character! Long story short: it’s like watching a movie where two actors who have at some point played Batman go on an adventure together, only this time it will only be understood by the hardcore horror buffs.
The rest of the supporting cast gives us Burn Gorman, who is just as good in this as in Pacific Rim, and Leslie Hope as the mommy of Hunnam’s character. Overall the acting in the film is very good, especially from Hiddleston and Chastain, but boy do I keep wishing that Mia Wasikowska seemingly had more than a handful of facial expressions in her arsenal. I get the feeling I’d have liked Crimson Peak a great deal more if the actress it all revolves around was better, yet I remain glad that she’s better here than in a certain Lewis Caroll adaptation.
That said, I think what we’re all truly here for is the film’s munificient visual style and all the first-rate settings and costumes we’re treated to. If I could watch this film without dialogue or any understanding of its actual plot, something tell me I would enjoy it just as much. It doesn’t stop at the set construction or other “practical” things, though. All the digital effects, which I’m almost completely certain includes the ghosts, are all great to look at and they appear perfectly at home in the gothic environment that surrounds them. I was almost too busy admiring the way the movie looked to be scared by it, even though it does have its fair share of spooks. Hell, even Stephen King called it “terrifying” when it first came out, not that we shouldn’t take what the creator of such “horror classics” as The Langoliers says with a grain of salt.
The film bears an R rating and there is content that justifies it. Del Toro apparently wanted to make a horror film for grown-ups, which I now realize is bit of a refreshment since the modern-day horror movie season seems to be about teenagers and whatever they wish to see. I don’t know that it is mature adults that made found-footage movies popular, but I’m always open to be proven wrong in my own personal perception of what movies are today.
In any case, I liked Crimson Peak after seeing it once and I have hopes of liking it even more after seeing it twice. It isn’t the Fantasy masterpiece I’ve long been waiting for Del Toro to make, but it is certainly deliciously dark and macabre enough to earn a 4/5 rating.
This concludes my Halloween reviews for this year. Stay tuned for November, where I’ll most likely tackle the Hunger Games finale and maybe even a certain Steve Jobs bio. I also might stop watching movies entirely. Ya never know.