October 26, 2015 // No Comments
I like Guillermo Del Toro, the man has proven himself to be a great director with an appreciation for the horror genre that makes me respect him. Pan’s Labyrinth is a fantastic movie that shows off his imagination and intelligence, weaving fantasy and reality to tell a dark, yet hauntingly beautiful story. Particularly impressive to me was how the movie did not talk down to it’s audience and showed off some fantastic set designs, makeup and practical effects to create it’s world.
All of that is what makes Crimson Peak a ghastly disappointment.
Crimson Peak starts off giving the impression that this is going to be a gothic ghost story in the vein of something like Sleepy Hollow (I’ll get back to that movie). It has a classic ghost story mixed with a murder mystery all with the trappings of the hammer horror movies of old. The big, glaring problem for me throughout the movie comes down to one very simple thing; the ghosts are completely unnecessary to the plot.
With minimal rewrites, you could completely remove the ghost story element to this movie, and it would not affect anything. The movie itself tells the audience that the ghosts are not the focus through the use of a story that is being written by the main character Edith – played by Mia Wasikowska. A number of times another character will note she’s written a ghost story, only for her to quickly point out that the story isn’t really about the ghosts, but the ghosts are there as a metaphor for the past.
It’s a bad sign when the screen writer feels the need to flat out tell the audience something like that.
The truth is, the ghosts don’t even serve that purpose, not really. Yes, the ghosts in the house could be interpreted to be the past that the villains cannot escape, but you could say that of any ghost in any movie. If the ghosts are meant to represent the past, then what the hell is the ghost of Edith’s mother all about? We never know anything about her other than she be dead so… how are we meant to glean any meaning from her appearances?
Also… how did she know to warn her daughter about Crimson Peak?
It’s irrelevant and I refuse to nitpick the ghost element of the story because it’s unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, the ghost parts can be downright chilling, with the opening scene with Edith’s mother and a dream sequence of a bloody woman being haunting. That said, the ghost sequences have their own problems; CGI is used liberally and to little effect. The ghosts are lingered on once too often and the movie has a habit of using jump scares and shrieking music to emphasise already creepy moments. It’s as if the movie is scared you won’t notice subtle scares and so grabs you by the neck and forces you to look until you notice.
So if the ghosts in this ghost story don’t impact the plot, what are we left with?
In short, Crimson Peak is the story of Edith and how she gets involved with Thomas Sharpe and his sister, Lucille. The pair are English land owners from an old family that has fallen into poverty and are seeking assistance from Edith father, a wealthy business man. Edith falls in love with Thomas but it’s clear that he and his sister are hiding a dark past. Her father tries to drive them away, but dies in suspicious circumstances shortly after he confronts the twins. Edith and Thomas marry and she is whisked away to the crumbling manor of the Sharpe’s, where she slowly realises that the house has a blood past…
This plot line would be perfectly fine, if it was paced better than it is. The movie feels like it takes three hours because the first act of the movie drags something awful. This is part due to a fantastic opening that promises ghosts galore, only to then dump us into the courtship of Thomas and Edith, which the audience knows is going to end badly, and as such grows impatient as it drags on. Doesn’t help either that the acting in the movie is old style broad, and as such after a while you forget that you were even watching a ghost movie and feel like you got suckered into watching a period drama.
Tom Hiddleston being near identical to Loki in appearance is also very distracting. And no, seeing his bare ass did not help distract from that, though I’m sure some of his fans will appreciate it.
When the movie finally gets into it’s main plot with the mystery of Crimson Peak, the mystery itself falls flat. I admit I didn’t know what the answer was going to be, but that was more because I had assumed there was more to it than there is. There isn’t. This is a very, very straight forward mystery that most will be able to figure out pretty quickly. Who the main villain turns out to be is predictable and obvious as soon as they appear on screen, again making me expect a swerve but, nope, the movie did exactly what you’d expect.
I mentioned Sleepy Hollow and that’s because that’s what this movie most reminded me of. It has the same feel as that movie, except Sleepy Hollow is a much, much better movie. This has no life to it at all and doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. Sleepy Hollow was a glorious, silly love letter to the hammer films, whereas this seems like a confused, stumbling meditation on the nature of ghost stories whilst also trying to pay tribute to those hammer horrors. The result is a movie that is frequently boring and occasionally creepy.
If you saw the trailer to this and wanted to see it, I recommended getting a copy of Sleepy Hollow instead. This is really not worth it.