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Crimson Peak

Many have written about Crimson Peak that it is lavishly done with all the technical expertise in the world but flat as a pancake as far as plot is concerned. These criticisms are correct. There was virtually nothing new in this film and—even worse—nothing surprising. Guillermo del Toro, who wrote and directed Peak, set such a high standard with the wonderful Pan’s Labyrinth and the less interesting but still fine Hellboy, that we expect all his films to have the same high intellectual value of these two, and, sadly, the evidence is in and they just don’t. When del Toro is good, he is very, very good and when he is bad he is, well, not awful but pretty bad. Watch Pacific Rim, if you want to see a boring, predictable action/adventure movie; watch Crimson Peak, if you want to see a boring, predictable gothic romance cum horror movie.

Del Toro came up through the ranks of make-up artists, and the production values of all his movies are superb. Crimson Peak is no exception with magnificent attention to the detail of costuming, hair and make-up, set design, etc. The colors are opulent as are the cloths, and the settings. The castle on Crimson Peak is a masterpiece of set design. The couple who live in it, a brother and sister played by Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston, have lost their fortune and have no money to keep it up. Time and weather have caused the roof high above the foyer to collapse so that it is open to the sky; snow pours in and contributes wonderfully to the feel of truly gothic frigidity the film exudes. When the murders start happening, the gore is plentiful, and the make-up depicting stabbings in the face, heads bashed in on sinks, etc. fully horrifies the sensibilities.

The acting performances are fine, too, but none of the characters are written beyond stock level, so the three principal actors (Chastain, Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska who plays Edith Cushing, the wife Hiddleston and Chastain drag into their lair) are pretty much wasted. This is a rare miss for Jessica Chastain, though Hiddleston and Wasikowska have been in their share of duds. Supporting performances, too, by Charlie Hunnam (Cushing’s faithful suitor) and Jim Beaver (Cushing’s father) seem determined to be set within a rigid frame of gothic performance that make them feel well-done and clunky at the same time. None of the relationships work, none of the characters work, the movie doesn’t work.

Drew Trotter

November 12, 2015

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