I’m not often in the habit or writing reviews on here, whether for books or cinema, but that’s more down to my own negligence than a deliberate policy. Because writing blog content is occasionally easier than writing actually pay-me-for-it fiction or, heaven forbid, PhD research, I thought I’d cobble together a summary of Guillermo del Toro’s much anticipated new horror film, Crimson Peak.
I’m more or less a del Toro fan. Pacific Rim got way too much hate. Puss in Boots was the best of any of the Shrek universe films (he was an executive producer). For all its faults, The Strain is currently my favourite TV series. Thanks to this, and some delicious trailers, I had high hopes for Crimson Peak.
Overall I wasn’t disappointed. There were good points and bad. Beware those who have yet to see it, for herein there be spoilers.
Let’s be positive, and start on the negative notes. Worst of all was the plot. It was just pretty darn predictable (incest duo are murderous killers, because of incest-love and other poorly defined reasons. Throw in ghosts and damsel in distress). There were really no moments of great revelation, and no scenes that couldn’t be roughly predicted.
Also, the costume department went a little OTT. I’ll discuss my love of the gothic aesthetic later, but on a few occasions the “Edwardian on steroids” style of the garbs actually made things look a little bit silly, especially where the lead protagonist was concerned.
Lastly, insufficient ghosting. Now this is a personal disappointment rather than a fault with the film, as it makes plain at repeated points that this is “a story with a ghost” not “a story about a ghost.” Big and perfectly valid difference. But having gone a’ huntin’ for horror, I found actual frights to be in somewhat short supply throughout.
BUT ENOUGH OF THE NAYSAYING. I’d give this film three out of five stars, so where do the three points of positivity come from? Well, firstly, THE GOTHIC-NESS. Del Toro’s known for his love of everything gothic (just check the guy’s frikkin’ house), so it was no surprise that the whole film was crammed with that vibe, from those aforementioned over-the-top dresses to the looming, leering architecture of Crimson Peak itself. Some of it bordered on the ridiculous, but that didn’t make it any less delightful.
Secondly, the ghosts themselves. While they may not have had enough screen time for my liking, when they did appear they were certainly fearsome. Unlike more predictable directors (plot aside), del Toro didn’t shy away from having them seen front-and-centre, or try to relegate them to the spooky-spooky shadows. We got to view them in all their shrieking, emaciated, dripping glory.
Finally, the acting was generally good all around. A standout performance was, as ever, provided by Jessica Chastain, while Jim Beaver played an excellent old timey Murican dad (and his death scene was delightfully crunchy). And, of course, Burn Gorman makes anything and everything he appears in better.
Overall it wasn’t quite the gothic fright-fest I was hoping it would be, but visually it was still magnificent, and a worthy thing to go and watch on a bleak Edinburgh November’s day.
Beware of Crimson Peak.