Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Movie Review #328: "Crimson Peak" (2015)

Movie"Crimson Peak"
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
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Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is an aspiring writer and the daughter of Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), a wealthy, self-made businessman. When a British baronet named Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) comes to the states looking for financial backing to revive his family's clay mining business, Edith is quickly enamored by his charm. Her father disapproves of Thomas, but after a tragic accident befalls Carter, Edith marries Thomas and moves to his family estate, Allerdale Hall, in England where she will live with Thomas and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Soon, Edith realizes this place is shrouded by secrets and death, and her new husband and his sister may not be quite what they seem.

We are huge fans of Guillermo Del Toro, always have been. Though the marketing for "Crimson Peak" was misleading, billing it as much more of a horror-driven film, it is actually more of a gothic romance with ghosts that just happen to be in it. Our expectations were obviously pretty high because of our affections toward del Toro's previous works, even though we try to go into movies with a clear head and conscience, and though the film was not what we expected it to be, it is still a really great movie. This is a visually stunning film, as all of del Toro's works are, with wonderful sets, costumes, and special effects. But, the beauty of "Crimson Peak" is not limited to its visual spectacle. There is a good horror mystery surrounding this dark love story.

Mia Wasikowska plays Edith, an aspiring writer who seems headstrong and very independent. She doesn't really have much of an interest in love or trysts with men. She is completely fine being single, that is, until she meets Thomas Sharpe, played by Tom Hiddleston, though who can blame her? It's Tom Hiddleston. Their short courtship leads to marriage once tragedy befalls Edith's father as she packs herself up and heads to England to live with her new husband and sister-in-law. Almost from the very beginning of the movie, we know Thomas and his sister Lucille, played by Jessica Chastain in one of the more sinister roles she's ever played, have ulterior motives when it comes to Thomas' interest in Edith. Though Lucille is wary of Thomas choosing Edith as a mate in particular, what the Sharpe kids don't know but the audience does is that Edith can see and hear ghosts. Until moving into the Shape estate, Allerdale Hall, Edith only ever saw one ghost: the ghost of her mother, who repeatedly gave her cryptic messages the few times she appeared, leaving Edith shaken to her core. Once in the hall, she seems them more frequently. These ghosts are eerie, haunting, and gruesome, and yet somehow manage to stay alluring in their look. The CGI implemented for the ghosts in this film is nothing short of great. Once moved into Allerdale Hall, the Sharpe family's old, rundown mansion with red clay oozing from the floors and walls, Edith finds out it is located at Crimson Peak, dubbed this name because of the way the snow turns red in the winter because of the clay in the ground. The imagery of the clay seeping through the openings of the house, oozing through cracks and ceilings, the way the wind flows through its corridors, as well as how the decaying mansion settles and creaks constantly, it makes it feel like Allerdale Hall itself is breathing, bleeding, and has a soul, and in a way, it does. Edith is soon confronted by the many ghosts of this estate as it has a troubled past, one Edith hopes to eventually uncover. Del Toro, as always, captures these images beautifully as he has a wonderful cinematographic eye. We have come to expect no less from him, and his signature stellar visual style comes through in almost every shot. Though their estate is decaying, it does so in a gorgeous manner dripping in a stark juxtaposition between dark, brooding colors on the outside and bright red bloody ones inside.

Jessica Chastain steals the show here as Lucille Sharpe, who never fully seems likable or trustworthy in the slightest. Donning a British accent and darker hair, her wickedness is only offset by her creepiness. Tom Hiddleston does a wonderful job as Thomas Sharpe, slick and conniving and yet earnest and compassionate. Mia Wasikowska is fine as Edith, though her character goes from being a headstrong and fiercely independent writer to little more than a wife and shut-in. Charlie Hunnam, who Guillermo del Toro has used in the past, still hasn't quite captured a knack for the American accent, even after 7 seasons on the television show "Sons of Anarchy." He plays Doctor Alan McMichael, someone who has always admired Edith from afar and senses something is off with Thomas Sharpe when he rolls into town. Together, this cast performs well with what they are given.

Now, if you are a fan of the modern Hollywood jump-scare ridden formulaic horror movies like "The Lazarus Effect," "Ouija," "Annabelle," "The Woman in Black 2," and others like these, "Crimson Peak" is not the film for you. But, if you like the more classic ghost stories of yore wrought with mystery, romance, and intrigue, "Crimson Peak" might be as fun for you as it was for us. Others have complained about how formulaic, trite and lengthy this movie feels, but to us, it breezed by its run time and we were engaged almost always. Even though this is more of a Gothic romance with ghosts interwoven into the story than a straight horror movie, it still has a few graphic, very brutal death scenes to appease fans of gore. One scene in particular that is both unbelievably violent yet artistically beautiful at the same time. Some call Guillermo del Toro overrated, and we don't understand why this is the case, and if it is, shouldn't directors like James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, and Terrence Malick be called the same? Each director has their own niche, and del Toro is no exception. "Crimson Peak" might not be what we were expecting, but it's still certainly worth watching.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 70%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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