Beware the Crimson Peak
Crimson Peak (2015): In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds - and remembers.
This is why I should never hype myself up for a film. Because I'm inevitably going to be disappointed. Crimson Peak is a tale of two stories. On one hand, this film is visually stunning. I know I probably throw that statement around more than I should, but if anything should be taken away from this movie, it's that director Guillermo del Toro is, quite simply, the best director in Hollywood when it comes to using the latest technology to create a stylized film. What I mean by that is that while the effects of this film aren't the "most realistic" or anything, they are used by him better than anyone in the business right now. The cinematography here, combined with the visual effects make for one hell of a visually stimulating experience. And boy does Toro know how to build a set. But more on that later. The problem here is.....the story sucks! It just sucks. This story is del Toro's worst story since.....well.....ever. This just might be the worst story del Toro has ever written. And while it is beautifully acted by the three main characters in Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska, (and not-so-beautifully-acted by Charlie Hunnam) even Jessica Chastain can't save this terrible story. So let's jump into it, shall we?
You know how this works by now. Let's talk about the positives. As I said, this film looks visually stunning. While the style choice of the main "ghost" of the film didn't really agree with me, I can appreciate the reasoning behind the choice del Torro went with there. Yes, it's a mise en scene thing. Which is awesome mind you, given how vastly underused mise en scene is today, but it made the ghost look a little....silly. Anyway, moving on. The house looks spectacular. Can we get a film just about this house? Because when we get exterior shots of it it looks absolutely huge, but we hardly get to see any of it. There were clearly a lot more rooms that we didn't explore and I want to explore them! Dear Guillermo del Toro, can we please get a sequel just about the house? Pwetty pwease? Additionally, holy crap did the costume department show up. The costumes in this film are absolutely stunning, and definitely well worth a nomination. Although that and set design may be the only things this film is nominated for. But costumes? Definitely a 10/10. Well done there, guys. Finally, we have the acting. Mia Wasikowska was....good. That's really all I can say about her. She's asked to do a lot, and she delivers it, but she doesn't do anything out of the ordinary. As for Tom Hiddleston.....boy did I miss Benedict Cumberbatch. He definitely would've been a better fit here. That said, Hiddleston was still ok. Loki would've been better, but if this film confirmed anything for me, it's that Hiddleston is too good at playing Loki. Because that's all I saw. But then there's Jessica Chastain. Holy crap there's Jessica Chastain. Guys, you need to realize this. Chastain is on a freaking roll. She is having the best year of any actress OR actor BY FAR. She is doing a huge variety of roles, and she's nailing all of them. Chastain is mysterious, intriguing, and terrifying. She takes this otherwise EXTREMELY lackluster story and, combined with the visuals, holds it up with her bare hands. Her final encounter with Mia's character is easily the best scene of this film, and the only point where the film tries to be scary in a way that isn't just a standard pop scare. And I really feel like she improv'd most of this scene. She and the visuals are absolutely worth the price of admission, but for those of you who think this film is really scary don't worry! It's not. And that's just one of many problems I have with this film.
See that? I did a transition! Well, you know what? Let's finish the acting thought, because Charlie Hunnam is terrible in this film. Look Toro, I understand you really liked Hunnam in Pacific Rim. I did too! He was awesome! But there are some people who just can't do 19th century dialogue, and Hunnam is absolutely one of them. His delivery was laughable at best and cringe-worthy at worst, and you absolutely should've seen that in his audition. Nice "oops" moment there. Anyway, back to that "flawless" transition. So this film is officially labeled as a horror film. Least that's what I thought it was going to be labeled as. All the trailers made it look like it's going to be this super-scary film. Well.....it's not. All the scary bits were given away in the trailers, and those are just lazy pop-scares! C'MON DEL TORO! Y U NO INNOVATE? Some of you may remember that article I wrote on the rut the horror genre is in today earlier this year. (If you haven't, check it out here!) I was really hoping that Del Toro was going to bring some innovation back to the genre and deliver something scary that didn't involve the incredibly overused pop-scare. Something like what It Follows did! But nope! We get like 5 scary scenes total as is, and all of them are just pop scares. Well, that's ok, it's a Steven King-esque thriller then, right. Like The Shinning or something! Gripping story, right? WRONG! This story sucks! It is ridiculously predictable. About 15 minutes into this 119 minute film I predicted the ending. Which I very rarely do, because it ruins the fun. And from that point forward I was praying to the movie gods that that wasn't going to be the ending. They didn't listen. If you're going to be a thriller, then you need to keep your viewers on the edge of their seats. They need to be, you know, thrilled. But God is this film so predictable! And some of the lines are just....so.....bad! Even Jessica Chastain can't save it. Well, that's ok, long as the film is scary right? Oh, wait.....it's not....
In conclusion, Crimson Peak is my biggest disappointment of 2015 so far. Plain and simple. I had such high hopes for this film! I even included it in my Films to Watch for This Oscar Season article I wrote a few months back! I believed in you, Crimson Peak! But what I got was a visually stunning mess. A visually stunning mess I want to see a sequel of, no doubt, but still a mess.. But Guillermo del Toro, why couldn't you hold this film to the same standard as your previous films? I loved Pacific Rim. I loved Pan's Labyrinth. I loved Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Maybe I just hold del Toro and his films to a higher standard. Because I know he can do better than this. Unfortunately, Crimson Peak is not the horror film we need. It is a painfully average mess.
The Critique: While Jessica Chastain and the incredible set design attempt to carry this film, it cannot save Crimson Peak from an incredibly lackluster story. It is my biggest disappointment of 2015 so far.
The Recommendation: Still worth a watch if you're a del Toro fan. Or love stylistic horror films. Or want to see why I love Jessica Chastain so much. Just....don't be as hyped about the film as I was going into it.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average.
Oscar Talk: Set Design and Costumes/Makeup should be almost sure-things. Everything else though is unlikely. Which sucks because I wanted this to get a Best Picture nomination! Oh how naive I was.....
PS! On a totally unrelated note, it is a sad day for me. I've written a ton of reviews on this blog over the past 3 years. (Holy crap 3 years) And my trusty Macbook Pro keyboard has been the keyboard that's been there for all of them. Well, today, with this review, I retire this lovely keyboard. Tomorrow, I will receive my beautiful new mechanical RGB keyboard, (the Corsair K95 RGB if anyone's interested) and while I am extremely excited to enter the world of mechanical bliss, I have certainly appreciated this surprisingly awesome keyboard. That'll do, Macbook Pro keyboard. That'll do.
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