Sunday, October 23, 2016

31 Days, 31 Horror Movies: Crimson Peak

The next few films will get short shrift in the writeup department, unfortunately, as I try and catch up.

"Beware Crimson Peak!"

Down on his luck Baronette Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) woos Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), the daughter of a rich American industrialist. After her father's mysterious death, Thomas takes Edith to his ancient, crumbling family home on Crimson Peak - so named because the oils in the red clay of the soil stain the snow blood red. And oh yeah, when Edith was a kid her dead mother showed up as a ghost to warn her away from Crimson Peak.

Why are ghosts never clear with their warnings? No "stay the hell away from Thomas Sharpe, he and his sister are bad news!"

This is all very gothic, like the definition of Gothic Fiction in the dictionary would have Castle of Otranto as the first example and Crimson Peak as the last. And in that genre it works exceedingly well - it's all atmospherically rotting woodwork and black lacquered halls that seem to wander in ways the house couldn't possibly hold. There are dark family secrets and an innocent woman in grave circumstances she only becomes aware of through the intervention of spirits. The plot is a bit obvious, but that's also part of the charm - you know what's coming, even when the protagonists don't.

Every time I see a house like this in a film I think "dear Lord, the dusting..."

Unfortunately, the film is let down on two fronts. Other than the main trio of characters Thomas, his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) and Edith, the casting is a bit lackluster and I don't really buy either Jim Beaver or Charlie Hunnam in their roles. And the special effects - particularly of the ghosts - are too modern and realistic for the mood. They're well done - I mean, this is Del Toro here - but the realistic gore and violence clashes with the generally period and genre specific atmosphere.

Is that a cleaver in your head or are you just happy to see me? Cleaver? Okay then.

Tom Hiddleston is the standout here, as he often is. I found myself liking and sympathizing with his character, even when I knew what his past was. We shouldn't forgive him anything, and I didn't - but I sure wanted to.

Bottom Line: very good movie that I didn't enjoy as much as I should have because of the way the gore and violence - minimal as it was - kept knocking me out of the story. Worth it for the visuals alone.

Whose idea was it to build here, anyway? 'Cause they should be fired.

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