Gothically Grotesque

A good haunted house movie, if done well can be one of the most effective offerings of the horror genre. To succeed in standing apart, it must possess two things: a good story and effective chills. Crimson Peak manages really only one of the two elements. However, despite what the previews and even opening lines of the film tell you, being a story about ghosts might not be its first and foremost purpose. While there's intrigue with the ghosts, the real mystery of the film surrounds the human characters and their past. If you watch the movie for them, you'll enjoy it so much more than if you're just longing to be scared. Unfortunately, that can be a hard thing to reconcile yourself to when the mood is set so perfectly for a good old fashioned haunting.

A creepy haunted house is not the only mood that director Guillermo Del Toro sets. There is an unmistakable air of "gothic romance" to the proceedings that feels very much in the vein of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Like those novels, we're introduced to a similar young heroine named Edith, (Mia Wasikowska) who is drawn to a mysterious man by the name of Thomas, whom she should probably steer clear of (Tom Hiddleston.) Persuaded by love, Edith agrees to become Thomas's wife and leave her home in America for the childhood home that he and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) share. But soon she discovers that the house, as well as her new family, are not all that they seem.

From a visual standpoint, Crimson Peak is a gorgeous movie to behold. The set design of the mansion is incredible, and the costumes are top notch. And don't get me started on that wonderful cinematography. The only visual element I'm not fond of is the design of the ghosts themselves. As the film progresses, it becomes clear that Peak is not the ghost's story, so they don't necessarily need to be the ones causing the fear in the audience. Still, their design and its excessive use of CGI took me out of an otherwise fabulous story. Basically, if you make a movie with ghosts in it, you can't really blame the audience when they want to be scared by them... even if it's not about them. So why don't they pack a punch? Their look is definitely a stylistic choice that I get, but don't really love, and put simply: we just see too much of them. The same problem occurred in another Del Toro involved film, Mama where the filmmakers relied too heavily upon showing the supernatural. If just a little more had been left to the imagination, the effects might have been more haunting. As it is, the film is much more concerned with its living characters than its dead.

Crimson Peak manages just enough to overcome its expectations of being full fledged horror due to its story, style and strong cast. It's a solid movie, but you can't help but wish that it was just a teeny bit scarier... even if it didn't want to be. EMILY RATING: 7.5/10


Sarah said...

Horror is not my favorite genre, so I might like this movie better because of the lack of scares.

Her updo is super cool.

Joey said...

October is a terrible month for movies if you don't like horror.

MovieFanatic said...

Dear Emily,
I am a huge horror fan and a Del Torro fan, I think his visual style is incredible, especially after seeing Pan's Labrynth. That's unfortunate it wasn't that scary, I was hearing that Del Torro wanted to make an homage to old classic horror movies such as "The Innocents", which is so good and scary.

Also, I have been following your blog for the past 4 or 5 years, and you seem like a really cool person. I was wondering if I could have a chance to get in touch via e-mail, I don't have facebook or instagram cause of circumstances, so it's easier with e-mail. I wouldn't mind saying hi and possibly getting to know you. Hope to hear from you. Movie Fanatic