Hey guys. So, with the exception of Star Wars Episode VII and Mad Max, this was my most anticipated film of the year. I guess you could say it was my third most anticipated. Now, when I highly anticipate something, and it disappoints me, I am a beast of rage.
FORTUNATELY THIS WAS NOT THE CASE!
Last night I saw Crimson Peak and I’m going to try to keep this as concise as I possibly can. This movie is everything that I was hoping it would be and more. Now, I was hoping to get a Gothic Romantic frightening period piece, gorgeous cinematography, great acting, and great writing. And I got that. But take all my nice little descriptive adjectives and bump them up to the next level of positive descriptive adjectives. Instead of “great,” “excellent.” Instead of “gorgeous,” “perfect.” And then you will have my opinion of Crimson Peak.
Guillermo del Toro is one of my favorite directors so I may be a little bit biased, but I have to say that this is one of his best movies, and one of the best of the year, let alone one of the best movies that I have featured this October.
You may read online people saying this isn’t a true horror movie, and if you go in expecting one you will be disappointed. And that is true. To an extent. When I went in, having known that this movie is a Gothic Romance (and knowing what that means), I wasn’t expecting much in the way of horror. And I got more than I bargained for. Which is nice. It’s a good thing. Great ghost design. And while this isn’t what we think of when we think of “horror,” in the modern sense (and by that I mean post-1970), it’s more along the lines of classical horror. Dracula and Frankenstein come to mind.
This movie is not just horror, this movie is the original horror. It takes cues from those classics that I previously mentioned. It updates them with some aspects and tropes from modern horror. It’s such a great combination. I loved it. I loved the movie. I could not have asked for anything more.
Mia Wasikowska, one of my favorite actresses, all of her talent is on display here. Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam are great. Jessica Chastain is very, very good (maybe the best acting in the movie).
This is horror with a story. A lot of horror movies are a little light on plot. Which is fine (when it’s fine). Sometimes you don’t need much of a plot, like in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That’s a classic, but it has little story. Just teenagers and a chainsaw cannibal. But it’s still beloved. However, Crimson Peak tells a phenomenal story about a woman (Wasikowska) back in the early 1900s who wants to be a writer. She meets a Baronet (Hiddleston) who likes her writing. After her father is murdered (Mysteriously!), she goes to the Baronet’s home (a spooky scary AMAZINGLY-designed mansion) where he lives with his sister (Chastain) and she begins to see apparitions. I don’t want to give too much plot away.
It’s difficult for me to put into words all of the different aspects of this movie that I loved and why I loved them. You have Guillermo del Toro’s most beautiful movie that he’s ever made (maybe with the exception of Pan’s Labyrinth). You have a plot that doesn’t necessarily surprise as much as it’s just good. It’d a great, classical story. It’s been told before, but differently. Beautiful set design, costuming, cinematography, make-up, and CGI all make up aspects of why this movie is so great. And what else could you expect from del Toro?
All I can do is list superlatives, so I’m going to talk about Gothic Romance for a bit. Gothic Romance is a subgenre of Gothic Fiction. Gothic fiction is a genre of literature, film, and more that basically covers three main themes: Romance, Horror, and Death. By romance, I mean the feeling of mystery, excitement, and allure of life, all made up in a more grandiose and melodramatic way by the context in which it is displayed. Basically romantic, in this sense of the word, is dramatic, idealized, and somewhat unrealistic.
So if you remember when I mentioned Dracula and Frankenstein, hopefully you understand what I’m talking about with Gothic Romance. The movies feature over-the-top theatrical acting, elaborate and beautiful set design, it’s all very “Victorian.” That’s how this movie is as well.
Now a Gothic Romance is a piece of Gothic Fiction that focuses more heavily on Romance. It obviously still features horror and death prominently, otherwise it would just be a romance.
I heard people in the theater with me say they didn’t think it was going to be a “cheesy love story,” and they are the same people who say “oh that wasn’t horror.” And I am surprised that those people were watching the same movie as I was. There was nothing very cheesy about this movie at all. It’s a very disturbing story of a romance, that also has a bunch of ghosts and a spooky mansion. And so, so much metaphor for blood and death. Seriously, everything in this movie is either black, red, and/or white (which is AMAZING and I could have an entire post just talking about that).
The plot itself is highly disturbing. There are very many unnerving moments in the film. There’s a huge amount of unsettling imagery. So all the people who say that this movie isn’t horror have forgotten the early days of horror movies. And that’s sad. This is as much of a horror movie as any other horror movie I’ve watched this month. It’s simply a type of horror people have either forgotten, never been exposed to, or have ignored completely.
This is a classical horror movie with modern twists. A Gothic Romance is basically a Romantic Thriller with a horror coating.
I want to add that the movie is very modern in its portrayal of the female characters as well. Guillermo del Toro mentioned in interviews that old Gothic romance movies were written by a woman and directed by a man who lessened the strength and presence of the female characters. del Toro’s goal was to do the opposite. He wanted to have strong women, and he did and excellent job. Wasikowska and Chastain carried this movie all the way through.
Many people (including critics) went into this movie expecting something that simply wasn’t. I blame the marketing. This film was billed as a terrifying haunted house movie set in Victorian times, when really the movie is an emotionally unsettling Victorian romance set in a haunted house.
So that’s it for Crimson Peak. If you can’t tell, this movie blew me away (despite the horrible people in the row behind me who were DETERMINED to ruin the movie for me. Please, don’t talk in the theater guys. Is that really so much to ask?). Go see it. The more people see the movie, the more likely it is that we finally get Hellboy 3 and At the Mountains of Madness!!!
BONUS: My Countdown of del Toro movies, least great to greatest! Remember, I LOVE every one of these so the order is barely relevant, but there is still an order.
9. Mimic (1997) – a mediocre creature feature vastly improved by the 2011 Director’s Cut
8. Blade II (2002) – The best of the Blade series. Great make-up
7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) – Almost as good as the first. Amazing make-up and practical effects
6. Pacific Rim (2013) – WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO YEAH PACIFIC RIM WOOO
5. Crimson Peak (2015) – See above
4. Cronos (1993) – Gorgeous, tragic, highly unique vampire horror/drama
3. Hellboy (2004) – The greatest superhero movie. Lovecraft meets The Punisher
2. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – The scariest fairy tale I have ever seen
1. The Devil’s Backbone (2001) – Intimate, profoundly sad ghost story set during the Spanish Civil War