Friday, October 30, 2015

Crimson Peak Review

Crimson Peak
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast Headliners: Mia Waskiowaska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain
Original Release Date : October 16th, 2015
Seen: October 2014 (Test Cut)

(Note: I saw this in a test audience screening in October 2014 where I had the honor of meeting Mr.Guillermo himself so this review reflects the state of the film at that time. However, from what I have heard the changes came to visual fidelity of the VFX and minor cuts so this review should stay valid.)  
Ghost stories are often a dime a dozen. There’s a house, there’s some unknowing residents who get spooked, and there’s the audience who gets spooked by that spooking. But they often fall into a similar pattern. Enter Guillermo Del Toro who brings his magic touch with him. Crimson Peak isn’t just a ghost story as much as it is also a period piece but also something a bit more.
The period element to this film comes in that it takes place primarily in 1901 in some elegant place in the United States. Edith Cushing (Mia Waskiowska) soon becomes swooned by the mysterious businessman Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and in time they move to his old family home in England with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain).  It’s no surprise that things don’t exactly stay at this level of romance and the film isn’t just mere mystery. But it’s an interesting premise which makes it every bit as gothic romance as it is a horror film.

            While it’s theme is unique, its heroine is not so much. Edith’s responses to the mystery and drama make sense for the character but as a performance she is lackluster. Luckily there’s stellar performances by both Hiddleston and Chastain as the Sharpe siblings. If one has seen some of his other characters in films they can see once again how Hiddleston can be so charismatic in unique way. Chastain is a bit out of character but great in what she does.   There’s also solid if slightly sparse appearances by Edith’s friend Dr.Alan MicMichael (Charlie Hunnam).
            The movie has a large part of its quality within some of its characters but of course when one watches a Del Toro film the takeaway is in its spectacle.  Things are more Devil’s Backbone than Pacific Rim here however.  It’s a slow, subtle burn with moments of supernatural terror but never really jump scare. The director accomplishes this through nuanced scary sequences and a overall existential dead . This is aided by beautiful sets, quality (at the time of seeing a bit rough though) special effects on ghostly creatures, and tight camera work.   It’s definitely a Del Toro film and his craft gives it a special level of quality.
            However, for his more “traditional” horror films its solid if slightly unambitious. It’s his smallest scope in his career with the meanings behind things telegraphed a mile away where he usually keeps things more subtle.  Even the least shining Del Toro film is still solid however.
            Much like the mysteriousness of its plot and English manor hiding terrifying secrets, there’s some solid performances and moments in here if something doesn’t feel a bit off. But  a fan of the director will enjoy the experience, or of the neat overlap of horror and romance period piece fans. 8.65 out of 10

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