Movie Review: Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak 0

Dare I say it?  This is the most exciting movie I’ve ever seen about clay mining?  I don’t think I’ve thought hard enough to make a final judgement, but it’s certainly in my top 50 clay mining movies.  That’s for sure.

Crimson Peak is the latest movie from Guillermo del Toro, the famous bearded, glasses wearing, husky gentleman responsible for making many cool fantasy projects over the last 15 years or so.  Yes, I’m aware that that description applies to most creators of fantasy, and most consumers of fantasy (including me), but he’s the one with the Mexican accent, just to clear things up.  C-Peak is a fantasy thriller set around turn of the century England, where a young writer named Edith (Mia Wasikowska) gets swept off her feet by handsome, yet-still-kind-of squirrely-looking clay miner Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, am I alone in thinking he’s somewhat squirrely?), who takes her to his haunted mansion, which is full of ghouls and ghosties and his ill-tempered sister (Jessica Chastain).  There, she has to figure out the mystery as to why these people are so weird, while avoiding a lot of specters seemingly made of blood and puke.  And there’s a little dog in it!  Hahaha, look at the little dog!  [note: if you watch the movie, look at the dog in any of the scary scenes, because it’s probably making a dumb, nearly scene ruining face]

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I kind of hate to do it, but a lot of the reason why I was ultimately disappointed in Crimson Peak was because of built up expectations.  The marketing for this movie has been freakin’ great (in my opinion).  I’d probably put the trailer in my top five of the year.  But the trouble with the marketing is that it created this creepy, fun vibe of NON-STOP-GHOSTS, and it’s really not that at all.  It’s a deliberately slow-moving thriller, with fantastical, scary, often unnecessary, but still very welcomed flavor creatures on the side to jazz things up; not unlike some of Del Toro’s earlier work (Pan’s Labyrinth, Devil’s Backbone).  He enjoys taking a decent story, and then inserting crazy ghosts and dudes with eyeballs in their hands for the sake of whatever.  That’s cool, that’s what he does.

To elaborate, in probably the second or third scene in the film, Edith submits a manuscript for her novel to a publisher, who is tickled by the ghost story angle, to which she replies “Well, it’s not really a ghost story.  It’s a story with ghosts.  The ghosts are just metaphors.”  The same exact words can be applied to del Toro’s movie.  He could have probably written out every single ghost from the screenplay, and still kept his main mystery storyline perfectly in tact.  But to paraphrase my fiance after I told her that, “Then people like you wouldn’t go see some turn of the century costume piece.”  It’s probably true.  But maybe not.  I’d probably be more inclined to see Far From the Maddening Crowd if Del Toro randomly directed it.  Or maybe it’s the fact that he probably couldn’t resist inserting a vampiric centaur into Maddening Crowd that *makes* me like Del Toro?  I don’t know.

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Anyway, throwing all expectations aside and looking at the movie as it is for two hours, it has plenty to like.  The acting is good, the story is intriguing enough; the cinematography, production design, and costumes are all Oscar worthy…  But, oh c’mon, I have to go back to the marketing…  The trailer also kind of ruined like 80% of any pivotal moments in the movie, including all but I think two of the ghost scenes.  The trailer gives away the fate of Edith’s dad pretty clearly, also which hallways and doors have ghosts in them, and even one of the villain’s moments of turning into a villain.  This was an unshakable case of trailer rot, even though I thought the trailer was cool as hell.

Man, I feel like I’m just dumping all over this movie right now, when overall, I actually enjoyed it.  So it’s making me feel bad.  And like anyone else who watches Del Toro’s TV project The Strain, it’s best to just kind of glaze over any minor plot holes if you really want to enjoy it.  Like, how did Edith’s mother know to warn her about Crimson Peak fourteen years before she goes there?  They never explain that.  They don’t even try to.  But they got that awesome “BEWARE OF CRIMSON PEAK” soundbite that they used in all the commercials and put on all the posters.  That’s Strain levels of “just roll with it, dude”.

But dat camerawork, tho…  THOSE COLOR POPS!  What great use of red and white throughout the whole movie.  And the ghost design was pretty nice.  Del Toro even throws an homage to his Devil’s Backbone ghost in Crimson Peak with that upwards bleeding out of the head effect.  Pretty cool.  I feel like on a technical level, this movie was pretty fantastic.  It’s a very well shot, well put together film.  Nobody is going to be criticizing anything visual and/or film snobby about it.

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And don’t let me forget the stabbings!  Oh boy, if you’re a knife enthusiast, you’re gonna love the stabbings in this movie!  Just about everybody gets stabbed at one point or another.  It’s the stabbiest movie of the year.  And amidst all of this real life gun violence we hear about every single day, I think it’s great of Del Toro to go back to violence’s roots, and not even feature a single gun in his movie.  Just sharp things.  Stabby things.  And people getting stabbed in uncomfortable places, too.  So stabby.  Now now, wait, I know what you’re thinking…  “I don’t like stabbings that much, I’m more of a blunt force trauma kind of lady, Scott…!”  Don’t worry, ma’am, there’s plenty of that, too.  …This movie is really violent, I’m trying to say.  But if you remember that scene in Pan’s Labyrinth when the guy get’s his cheek sliced open and has to do self surgery on his face; this kind of violence should be expected from Del Toro, i.e. Mexico’s answer to George R.R. Martin.

I definitely want to watch Crimson Peak again when it comes out on home video, because I feel like my giddy anticipation for its release sort of dampened its overall impact a little bit, and it will almost certainly come out better for me on a repeat viewing.  Because, again, I thought it was a pretty decent movie, it just wasn’t the pretty *amazing* movie that I was hoping it would be.  Having expectations lowered down to a “This looks like it might be alright?” should be the preferred level of excitement going in; instead of what I did, which was annoyingly ask my fiance over and over again for three days “WE’RE STILL GOING TO SEE CRIMSON PEAK ON THURSDAY NIGHT, RIGHT?!  RIGHT?!  YOU’RE GOOD WITH THAT?!  RIGHT?!”

8 out of 10

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