Movie Review: Crimson Peak

Guillermo del-Toro. I’m being perfectly honest when I say I have no idea who that is. When I say that, I don’t mean I don’t know who del-Toro is. I mean I don’t know who del-Toro is.

Guillermo has dabbled in so many genres in the realm of moving pictures that I’m unsure what significant impression he’s left on the industry, if any. I don’t consider myself an expert on del-Toro’s filmography, but I wonder if anyone truly is. He has played small behind-the-camera roles in some notable productions and has found himself accredited as a creative consultant more than a couple of times. He has seemingly fallen off the grid when it comes to the director’s chair, but when he decides to pursue a project, he does so full steam ahead. With Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Pacific Rim and now Crimson Peak, del-Toro directed and wrote the script. Coincidentally, that is the extent of knowledge I have regarding his filmography.

However, I have the luxury of having viewed the film that epitomizes del-Toro to the letter and that product is known as Pacific Rim. The hype for Pacific Rim during the summer of 2013 was mountainous. All of my friends were pumped. My brother and I were pumped and even Hollywood was on their heels. The Mexican director praised that Pacific Rim would blow our minds, we would be so in awe of what we were witnessing. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Pacific Rim was nothing more than a trend. It was hot and like a poor installment of a video game franchise, was forgotten and passed over in a matter of months.

Fast forward two years and del-Toro decides he wants to make another movie. Let me introduce you to Crimson Peak.

Crimson Peak provides the scenery that allows del-Toro to tinker and sketch a Gothic horror, a throwback to the traditions of the horror genre. In pre-production interviews, del-Toro said he wanted to make a modern installment in the fashion of horror classics such as The Omen, The Exorcist and The Shining. Before the 21st century, the artistry of film was limited in the visual department. What they couldn’t compose on the screen had to be conjured by the writer’s pen and director’s firm hand. I actually watched The Omen for the first time on Halloween a few weeks ago and while it wasn’t scary for me, it was clearly evident why the film has found itself a candidate for the Mount Rushmore of horror. Film in the glory days whipped up the idea of the film and spent hundreds of hours constructing the invisible.

What the horror industry has forgotten and why it struggles so heartily today is because the directors tasked with injecting new blood into the drying veins of this behemoth have forgotten about the invisible-the tension, the suspense, the genuine terror that our own imagination can manifest all its own with the right prodding. They’ve forgotten the difference between a momentary shrill cry, and paralyzing fear and shallow breathing. They’ve either forgotten or still do not understood what truly scares us.

At the very least, Guillermo del-Toro understands what does. Crimson Peak plays the fiddle of our fears, giving the urgency, despondency and dejection of being alone in the world, surrounded by those who wish us harm and a place that makes our bones shudder like the curtains on the attic window. Guillermo’s study of visual aesthetics and Gothic decorum administers an eerie glow to an ash-black setting. Something is astir and our curiosity is peaked, play on the title intended.

The pacing of Crimson Peak is like a slithering snake, slowly sizzling and storming across the floor. At times it’s appropriate and at others you want to see the snake put the rubber to the road and just go already. Tension and grit are built on the foundation of timing and tempo and while del-Toro understands the horror genre better than many of his counterparts of late, it’s still not where it needs to be.

Luckily for del-Toro, he has a cast that bails him out in some facets. It feels like fresh air, seeing Tom Hiddleston in a non-Loki role and Jessica Chastain chewing on a meaty character. Hiddleston, away from the one-liners and crowded cast lists of Marvel films, seems to revel in the luxury of additional screen time. Chastain plays alongside Hiddleston as his sister and is given more range as an actress. Chastain is the one to watch in Crimson Peak.

Yet with all these positives, Crimson Peak still has its negatives, keeping it at an average level overall. Mia Wasikowska’s leading lady doesn’t get the development anyone wants. Curiosity and independence drive her character forward, but audiences will be hard-pressed to find much more. Instead, the elements of a mystery-based plot control the steering wheel of this horror ride. As more clues are uncovered, more of the plot is revealed to the eyes of the audience but none of these discoveries are earth-shattering nor are they all that unpredictable. By the third act, Crimson Peak becomes an average horror entry at best, but still surpasses some of the laughable attempts at scares that peruse my recent memory. Looking at you, The Visit.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (The MartianBlack Mass,Enemy at the GatesAnchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The Professional)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Beasts of No NationTerminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwistedParker)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (EverestHerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitz)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Crimson Peak: 70.

Crimson Peak isn’t without its cringe-worthy moments, imposing set designs or haunting supporting cast, but without a developed protagonist, del-Toro’s work slowly mutates into a mystery crime novella rather than a perusing of the deepest depths of the human soul and the demons within.

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6 thoughts on “Movie Review: Crimson Peak

  1. Tom says:

    Nice review Tim. If I may, perhaps give his magnum opus ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ a go sometime. It’s a very odd movie but epitomizes his preference for style WITH substance. It’s a really odd film and I”m not as high on it as many seem to be, but it’s a good one all the same. I’m glad I’ve skipped this one, though. Average horrors tend to just not be my bag. I guess for obvious reasons.

    • First, I want to say thanks so much for sticking with me. I’m getting back to blog reading tomorrow. I haven’t done any blog reading in the last month but I’ve missed it so much. Pan’s Labyrinth is probably the last del-Toro film I’ll see if it doesn’t impress me beyond an average level.

      • Tom says:

        No problem. I’ve dropped off on my readings myself. Have kept up writing but been a bad community blogger hah!

        I think that’s a fair approach to ‘Labyrinth.’ Truthfully I’m not much of a fan of his filmography anyway. ‘Pacific Rim’ was average at best. Spectacular visuals, crap story

      • Well here’s to bettering ourselves in the blogging community! Cheers, mate!

  2. Dan O. says:

    Looks awfully pretty, but really, that’s about it. Not much of a story to write home about. Nice review.

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