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Better late than never! I've been travelling a lot now of late hence my lateness on addressing CRIMSON CREAK. But there was no freaking way I’d miss out on a Guillermo del Toro flick on the big screen. Love or hate his work, you can’t deny that the lad always strives further than the norm in terms of attention to details and telling a distinctive story. The Devil's Backbone (2001), Pan's Labyrinth (2006), the Hellboy movies… shit… even when he tackles a superhero flick like Blade II, it comes off as novel and all del Toro! The man is an auteur and an artist and I couldn’t have more respect for him and his talent. Which bring us to CRIMSON PEAK. Didn’t quite know what to expect from it, I went in fairly blind and I must admit that I was pretty much blown away by it.
CRIMSON PEAK was more a of a doomed Gothic romance with ghosts in it mixed with Giallo elements than an bonafide horror movie (in fact a line of dialogue in the film “It's not a ghost story, it’s a story with ghosts in it” echoes it’s M.O. to a T). And that was all good with me! It felt like it had been eons that I had sat down and watched a movie that carefully developed its characters, their relationships and the sordid situation at hand. At about 30 minutes, I turned to my date and said: “Wow, it feels great to watch a REAL movie for a change.” By that I meant; not a product structured around a rating or/and an opening weekend but a piece of earnest cinema. Even with its flaws in tow (more on those below), CRIMSON PEAK had so much ambition and heart, that I couldn’t help but fall in love with it.
For the most part the film had me in its grasp the whole way through. The mystery had my noggin working over time, the unsettling ghost apparitions gave me the freaking willies (a mix of practical with CG enhancements) and the characters and their evolving twisty-turvy relationships stimulated me. Mia Wasikowska was sublime as our naïve yet strong and independent heroine, Jessica Chastain was hypnotizing as the intense and secretive sister and Tom Hiddleston was all boyish charm as the younger brother. On their end Charlie Hunnam and the great Jim Beaver (Bobby in Supernatural) also came through with their secondary roles. As a Supernatural fan, I got to say that it was swell to see Beaver tackle on a meaty role in a big production. Good on ya sir!
Lets not forget the stellar costume/production designs which were important characters in the film in their own ways. The sets were striking in their mix of beauty and decay (which seemed to be a running theme in the picture - like the butterflies and the moths) while the costumes were faithful to the era but also revealing when it came to the nature of the characters. Visually, the mix of del Toro’s (and ace DP Dan Laustsen) classical camera shots (lots of wide shots and slow push-ins) and the moody Mario Bava-ish like lighting resulted in an almost overwhelming feast for my retinas! Yup, the imagery here was BEYOND powerful. Wow! Add to all that genius, moments of genuine tension, gory bits that came out of nowhere and whooped me stupid, a haunting score by Fernando Velázquez and a visceral last act that brought it all home with gusto and you get an elevated genre opus, one that only a director of del Toro's ilk could execute.
Any peeves? Some. My problems with CRIMSON PEAK were actually all script related and surfaced in my noggin after my screening was done i.e. when I got the chance to mull over what I had seen. For starters, the character of Edith was WAYYYYYY too naïve. Red flag kept popping up in her face about her new friends and she inexplicably didn’t see ONE of them. How dense can one be? Then we had some characters doing dumb moves to serve the plot. Now the film wasn't filled to the brim with them, but it had a couple of severe one. Finally; the hole in the roof of the house had me scratching my head in the sense of: ”Now that they have money; why won’t they fix it?” But after seeing dead leaves or snow flakes gracefully fall through it into the main hall of the house– I realized that was a duh decision to serve the film’s aesthetics (and to also cummunicate the passing of time) and being that I am a style whore – all was forgiven quickly.
Overall, I left the movie theatre a very content movie fan! CRIMSON PEAK made for an absorbing Ghotic romance and an eerie horror film, one that was tagged with a mystery that kept me guessing to boot! It was also definitely the most macabre gorgeous picture of the year! One to see again and one to own… well for me that is!