What I'm Watching: Crimson Peak
Well, there's still no Paranormal Activity playing here, because my theatre is being whiny about things. But, they did have Crimson Peak, and that definitely looked interesting.
Crimson Peak could have had any story it wanted, with Guillermo Del Toro involved, and a cast of Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowski, but bonus! Horror story!
Well, Del Toro would argue that point. He's made a post or two about how this isn't a horror story, it's a gothic romance story. And I was ALL set to tease and mock that point, because dur, we all saw the trailers! There's ghost and monsters and creep factor of 13! But damnit, if the movie did not win me over to his way of thinking.
The story centers on Edith, played by Wasikowski, a young aspiring writer in Buffalo, NY, of the late 1800s. As you can imagine, she's pretty much scoffed at for trying to pursue such a career, and generally frowned upon not staying in her place as a proper woman of society. This all gets turned on its head when the Sharpes come into town seeking funding for Thomas's invention to better run his family's mine that provides red clay.
This brings us to the romance side of things, and Edith's father not approving of Thomas and his secrets, which eventually lead to her father's demise. The whirlwind romance continues, Edith and Thomas are married, and she is whisked away from the comfort of her home, to the Sharpe's mansion that has fallen into grave disrepair as the family has become increasing destitute over the years, and become unable to maintain it. It's a handy way to make the place super atmospheric, yes?
Edith is continually haunted by ghosts giving her cryptic warnings and messages, cluing her and the audience into things not entirely being what they seem, and things get worse and worse, until all the secrets are revealed and the mysteries are solved.
I really enjoyed Crimson Peak. I saw a friend immediately after the movie, and told him it was 'wonderful'. It's not "Pacific Rim" great, but it's good in its own ways. PacRim is a big romping adventure movie that punctuates things with epic moments that make you sit up in your seat and cheer. That's the language of that sort of movie, and not Crimson Peak. Instead, Peak deals in the language of gothic horror and romance, and gives you punctuating moments that make you sit up and gasp.
And much like PacRim, this movie uses colour to wondeful effect. I love colour theory, and its use in film to convey story and mood and tone. While this is a smaller, subtler movie, it uses it just as effectively as the giant punching robots. Del Toro is a master filmmaker, and he uses this tool well. The movie is bathed in deep, chromatic greens and ambers, mixed in with blues and reds. It maybe tends a bit too much towards the arguably overused blue and orange colour palette, but I argue that it fits her. The movie is dark, and cold, and the deep blacks and blues suit that perfectly, but there's fire, so the oranges of flames spotting the darkness are highly appropriate both for the story and the mood.
I've talked before in my reviews of Mama and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark that even when he's not writing or directing, there's a typical Del Toro-esque influence to the creatures that gives them an almost whimsical nature that sometimes robs them of their horror. That is not the case here, as the ghosts that Edith sees are very creepy and effective.
Do I even need to talk about the cast? Jessica Chastain is always a pleasure, and it was a real treat to see her doing something darker than what I'm used to seeing in other films. And c'mon. Tom Hiddleston. The guy is charming and charismatic as hell, and can turn that charm to creepy and terrifying with just a subtle shift in his voice or his eyes, and he brings all that to bear in this role. You want to like him, he *makes* you like him, just as he charms Edith, even though we as the audience know better.
The movie is oozing with metaphors and symbolism, as one would expect from Guillermo Del Toro. Since I've only seen this once, the only things that leapt out at me, and I can still remember sitting here hours later, are the butterflies and how their beauty is devoured by unsuspecting prey. I'm sure there's more. Also, Del Toro loves saying this isn't a horror movie, it's a gothic romance, with some ghosts. I love how that's a reversal of the book Edith is trying to get published, a ghost story she's written, but everyone insists she should add some romance to it. It's so very meta.
There is surely better gothic movies out there, but it's hard to beat Crimson Peak's level of production values and modern style and budget. Hardly any of those movies will be able to compete with how well made this movie is. Plus, with a cast of this calibre, and some legitimately good frights mixed in with a solid story, make this a very enjoyable film. If you're a fan of anyone involved in this, or suspense/mystery movies, this movie is a wonderful treat to give yourself this Halloween.