Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro
Released: October 2015
Crimson Peak suffers from the same mistake (if it is truly a mistake) that M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village suffered from when it was released in 2004. It’s marketed as a horror film, and it is, well, not a horror film. It’s creepy, sure. It’s disturbing, yes. But it’s not horrifying.
The Village was philosophical and interesting. It had decent acting and a typical Shyamalan plot twist ending, but it wasn’t scary. There was only a scene or two that could even be used to advertise it as such. Mostly it was thoughtful and slow. I always felt that it was a better movie than it got credit for being simply because people went in expecting one thing and were given something entirely different. It’s a recipe for disappointment, even loathing.
Crimson Peak is arguably similar in that respect. It has gotten mostly mixed reviews and I have to wonder if releasing it at Halloween to audiences expecting a slasher movie was a mistake?
Mistake or no, it was intentional. In both cases the movie was released and advertised this way in order to get audiences to come see it. It’s hard to get butts in the seats for an artistic or thoughtful flick about human nature—but scary horror film around Halloween? That Hollywood can handle. It makes sense from a marketing perspective, but I wonder if the initial sales are worth the long term damage this sort of marketing does to a film in the end.
As for me, I am very particular when it comes to horror. In general, I don’t enjoy scary movies. I especially don’t enjoy pointless violence. The plot needs to make sense, even if it’s not realistic. Horror is never about realism, but the best horror turns us inward. Horror is about processing our fears in the safety of the fantastic. If it isn’t productive in some way, it fails (in my opinion).
Crimson Peak did not fail me. I was fully prepared for how it would differ from typical horror. If I hadn’t been, I probably would not have gone to see it. It met my expectations on every front. For the rest of the review, lets move away from the term horror and use Guillermo’s descriptor instead.
It’s a gothic romance. Dark and crumbling. It’s reminiscent of Wuthering Heights (and Bronte novels are always appropriate for a Bell review, hehe). If you are a fan of Guillermo (and a Pan’s Labyrinth style of creepy) then you won’t be disappointed.
This is where Crimson Peak wins big for me. Perhaps it’s because I know and love Guillermo, but I know that every single detail of this movie was intentional.
It’s (to use Guillermo’s favorite adjective) gorgeous. The sets, costumes, and even digital effects are eerily breathtaking. A cold, brutal British landscape, a crumbling castle with terrifying secrets, a mysterious and handsome lover, and of course, ghosts. This may sound odd, but the ghosts are beautiful, if also disturbing. If this movie doesn’t get an Oscar nod for one of these areas, I’ll be surprised.
The casting was also perfect. I can’t imagine how the movie would have been with the original choices (Benedict Cumberbatch and Emma Stone) but Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain were incredible as always. The only acting that was less than stellar was Charlie Hunnam, but his role was so small it was easy to overlook.
Another win is that this movie has a strong female lead. Edith Cushing is no damsel, and neither is Lucille Sharpe. The women are in control of themselves in this film, which is as refreshing as it is to see a female protagonist in the first place. It was nice to see a “scary” movie where the girls kept their clothes on and weren’t screaming.
To summarize, I rather enjoyed this film and I think it’s worth seeing at least once if only for the visuals.