Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman, Leslie Hope
Rated: R (bloody violence, some sexual content and brief strong language)
In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers.
By Cole Schneider
Every October moviegoers are treated to a slew of horror mediocrity. Occasionally though a great film will rise up and transcend genre-fare. “Crimson Peak” had all the ingredients to do just that. It’s director, Guillermo Del Toro, has worked successfully in Hollywood with fun blockbusters such as “Pacific Rim” and the Hellboy movies, but has thus far been most artistically fluent in making smart horror tales such as “Cronos”, “The Devil’s Backbone”, and greatest film of all-time candidate, “Pan’s Labyrinth”. “Crimson Peak” has all indicators that he has returned to this scene. Throw in a cast headlined by Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, and Jessica Chastain and anticipation was justly high.
Unfortunately, while it has all the dressings of an artistic triumph, it forgot the story. It feels like Del Toro crafted a beautiful movie from a rough draft. While he’s in top form as a director–the sets, costumes, and cinematography are as brilliant as any horror or costume drama can dream to be–the central narrative is weak, unfocused, and lacking the thematic weight of his earlier work. Comparable perhaps to M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Village”, it looks the part and can’t be dismissed altogether, but forsakes its own premise by undercutting its own thematic undercurrents.
Still, its period setting is beyond compare for a film of its ilk, the central haunted house is impeccable, and the images on-screen are often breathtaking, especially the titular Crimson Peak named because of the red clay bubbling up from the earth and creating a wonderful contrast with the white snow it meets at the surface.You could do worse selecting a movie, but we know Del Toro can do better.
2.5 out of 5 Stars
By Matt Greene
Director del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) creates beautifully lush, twisted and horrific imagery in his films, skillfully highlighting his nightmarish designs when appropriate yet allowing them to just exist subtly at times. Crimson Peak is no different; there are frames here that would fit snuggly within any gothic art gallery. With bright cartoon-like colors on top of superbly stylized darkness, we’re transported into this world with ease. Unfortunately, del Toro seems to have become less interested in effective storytelling than style. Behind CP’s layers of dark beauty is a graceless narrative with clunky themes.
It’s an ambitious tale, no question. Without giving too much away, we follow Wasikowska’s character, a young heir haunted by ghosts, as she moves to an eerie old mansion with her new husband (Hiddleston) and his withdrawn sister (Chastain). Along the way, it confuses quantity of thought with quality. It’s individually competent as a haunted house / costume drama / tragic romance / gothic mystery, yet juggles them clumsily. It deals with interesting ideas about misplaced fear and the danger of mindless attraction, but with much too heavy a hand (literal moths flying towards light). It’s delivers unendingly strange characters through powerhouse performances, but blunt symbolism and overly flowery dialogue cloud them from truly shining.
These dichotomies are frustrating, especially when it’s all set within one of the greatest creepy houses in cinema history; it’s dark, charactered, and fully alive abode that is like a ghost itself. It’s much more intriguing than the journey of our protagonist, which never allows for mystery or surprise of any kind. All of this adds up to an oddly inconsequential outing for one of our modern visual masters.
2.5 out of 5 Stars