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Review: Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak
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PLOT: A wealthy young woman (Mia Wasikowska) living in late 19th-century America with her widowed father is swept off-her-feet by a romantic but impoverished English aristocrat (Tom Hiddleston). Soon the two are married, and the young woman finds herself living with her enigmatic new husband and his cold-hearted sister (Jessica Chastain) in a sweeping but remote and rundown English estate. Alas, the three of them are not quite as alone as they think...

REVIEW: It's a rare thing when a director manages to work his way through a series of critically-acclaimed genre movies but never gives in to studio pressure to create genre-fare that could be considered run-of-the-mill. Throughout his twenty-year career, Guillermo del Toro has remained a singular voice in genre cinema, and regardless if the film is the tent pole-level PACIFIC RIM, the Spanish-language PAN'S LABYRINTH or HELLBOY, his movies remain thoroughly the work of one of cinema's true modern auteurs.

CRIMSON PEAK carries-on that tradition. A Gothic romance, this has more in common with the novels of Daphne du Maurier or classic forties chillers such as GASLIGHT, DRAGONWYCK or the oeuvre of Val Lewton than it does with any horror film that we've seen lately. Truly, del Toro has made a sweeping period piece. Exquisitely cast and lavishly mounted, this is classical-style Hollywood film-making at its finest, and a master class in sophisticated horror done right.

Throughout, I kept imagining what CRIMSON PEAK might have looked like had it been a black & white Warner Bros., melodrama from the forties. For sure that's the kind of thing del Toro had in mind, with each of his protagonists playing to a specific type. As the young heroine, Mia Wasikowska's part would have been a natural fit for Ingrid Bergman, while Hiddleston's part would have been expertly played by Errol Flynn, with Jessica Chastain's playing a Bette Davis/Joan Crawford-doppelganger. All three are excellent, but not too precious in the fact that they're playing period. Wasikowska keeps her part modern, with her talented, glamorous character not being a JANE EYRE-retread despite some surface similarities. For his part, Hiddleston is exactly as charming as you'd expect, although his uniquely sympathetic presence gives his Byronic character a certain personable quality you might not expect based on the trailers.

Of the trio, Chastain seems to be having the time of her life as the menacing Lucille, although to her credit she never camps it up too much. While she's a likely red-herring right from the start, she's able to give the part some sense of ambiguity. Charlie Hunnam, despite having played the lead in PACIFIC RIM, gets a lower-key part here, as a kind of second-string hero, although he plays the role of Wasikowska's pure-hearted, would-be suitor well. Former Deadwood-star Jim Beaver also makes a huge impression as Wasikowska's dotting but earthy father. An excellent character actor, Beaver is a major scene-stealer and remains a criminally under-used Hollywood player. It's nice to see him get an opportunity to shine.

As wonderful as the cast is, CRIMSON PEAK is also something of a technical marvel, with incredible set design and breathtaking cinematography by usual Christophe Gans DP Dan Laustsen (complete with Iris-in/Iris-outs). CRIMSON PEAK is also one of the few Guillermo del Toro movies not to feature a score by Marco Brambilla, but MAMA composer Fernando Velazquez contributes a strong effort. The CGI is, of course, excellent, although the ghost effects are more low-key than you'd think. As Wasikowska's aspiring novelist heroine tells a would-be publisher early one, this is not necessarily a ghost story, even though there are ghosts in it.

Proudly old-fashioned (although boasting a surprising amount of hardcore gore), CRIMSON PEAK is a classy horror-romance, where the characters and period-setting are so involving that even when the horror is kept at a minimum (in the pre-Britain first act) you won't really mind. It's enormously engaging and further proof that del Toro truly is one of our great genre talents.

Source: JoBlo.com

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