So first off, apologies about missing the last few days of reviews, been a touch sick. That being said, we do have a new film that fits right in with the theme of this month with it’s supernatural tones and haunting themes. As we start into the review a confession that I am a Guillermo del Toro fangirl, I’ve loved his entire filmography and still have a few films to watch. This is my most anticipated movie of the fall season from the trailer to now I have been getting hyped. Cast, Director, all of it. I mean watch this trailer, with PJ Harvey’s cover of Nick Cave’s Red Right hand.
This is a trailer that drove me to watch a film. This did the job of a trailer, I was interested. I was hyped.
Was I too hyped? Was it worth it?
Let’s begin with writing. Matthew Robbins, best known as the writer of 1974’s Sugarland Express. He is also the mind behind urban horror tale Mimic, 80’s rebellion icon The Legend of Billie Jean (a personal fav). The man knows how to write character driven stories. He also does a good job with tension, but only a good job; that’s where co-writer del Toro comes in. Nothing will stick out to me more about del Toro than his work on Pan’s Labyrinth a film that any director should be proud of and how people brought young children to it. It was a tumultuous film I look forward to writing a review of soon, but regardless it has such beautiful tension and imagery. Now we combine forces of these two men, who had previously worked on Mimic together. Only good things can come from this right?
We also have del Toro at the helm directing and providing, and I use the term honestly, visionary ideas to the production. I think of what he did with Mimic, Blade II, and Hellboy when given a chance. It’s important to know here that del Toro isn’t just a talented writer, but he has also worked multiple film crews as well, working Art Department, Editorial, Casting, Stunts, and so one. There are few facets of film he does not understand which only makes him a stronger director and that is in play here. I have complained a few times recently how claustrophobic modern film is, where the quality of the camera and the way the sets are shot make films seem small. Here del Toro flips that on it’s head making the film feel both claustrophobic and large at the same time in a an extraordinarily talented way. He made interesting fade choices I haven’t seen since the early days of film that only add to the style and ambience of the finished work.
An excellent director can do miracles when given the right cast and that has been put together. Jessica Chastain I have realized is a magnificent actress, much like a female Gary Oldman. Her roles are so different and so powerful, but she vanishes into them and you forget quickly you are looking at Murph, Commander Lewis, Maggie Beauford, or Maya; here instead she is Lady Lucille Sharpe, a Victorian/Turn of the century lady. Her brother, Thomas, is delivered unto us by Tom Hiddleston, most famous for his Loki performances, but also from a vampire favorite Only Lovers Left Alive. I am ecstatic that he did this as it will hopefully force fangirls, and other fans alike, to no longer think of him just as the man who played Loki. Thor made him famous, but his talent will keep him so I hope. Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Only Lovers Left Alive) joins her two former castmates as Edith Cushing-Sharpe, a young american girl with dreams of being a writer in the vein of Mary Shelley vs. Jane Austen. Rounding out the cast we have Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim / Sons of Anarchy), Jim Beaver (Supernatural), and the man with incredible fingers, Doug Jones. Few people have seen Jones without a make up effect on him, but suffice to say he is an excellent creature performer.
That also tells you something of the film. There are people, mostly Doug Jones and Javier Botet that play the supernatural elements of the film. For those in the back, Real people. Yes, they are overlaid with computer work, but that is only after the prosthetics and make up is applied. The movie goes as practical as it is capable of for the story it wants to tell and thrives for it as physical performances enhanced by a computer are always better than a performance simply made by the computer in a film like this. The effects are creepy but not too creepy. The trailers will let you manage your expectations of what you can and cannot deal with. Continuing on the technicals, the sets themselves are perfect. I mean that. Perfect. The house is real as far as I am concerned. It is a place I want to go, it is a place I can go. The costuming is stunning as well and tells a story of it’s own.
Now, the story itself? It is a classic ghost story in every sense of the word. This is not a spoiler since if you are surprised it’s a ghost story, clearly you are not paying attention. It is atmospheric. It is pulpy. It is large. It is small. It is dark and it is bright. Not one aspect of the story is wasted or left to chance.
At almost precisely 2 hours, I cannot say Crimson Peak is a perfect film. I closed the longer part of the review saying not an aspect was wasted or left too chance; yet there is some pacing that could have been addressed. Guillermo does a sublime job of building tension and releasing it as needed, but it’s not quite perfect. I cannot put my finger on it but there’s just something off that didn’t resonate as well. It could be the bad audience I had, the long work day before, or my own expectations being as high as they were.
All of that aside, if you are looking forward to Crimson Peak – see it. See it this weekend. It’s the only one studios care about. We need more of what this film, it’s cast and crew bring to the cinema. This movie is the art we thought it would be.
The trailer says beware Crimson Peak.
I say enter of thy own free will….
I did enjoy this film, but I felt del Toro has made better films. (I love his films too. Pan’s labyrinth is one of my favourites.)
I agree, this is not his best work. I think that belongs to Pan’s at the moment; but it is up there for a passion project. It makes me weep for the Mountains of Madness we may never get.
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