Friday, October 16, 2015

Guillermo del Toro Takes Us to "Crimson Peak"

It's no secret to many who know me that I have a particular disliking for Guillermo del Toro. I find him to be a blowhard who talks more about what he wants to do than he ever actually gets accomplished. He yammers on and on about what the perfect horror films are but doesn't heed his own advice when it comes to the ones he produces. "Crimson Peak" shows del Toro putting his money where his mouth is.

After marrying the charming and seductive Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), young Edith (Mia Wasikowska) finds herself swept away to his remote gothic mansion in the English hills. Also living there is Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain), Thomas' alluring sister and protector of her family's dark secrets. Able to communicate with the dead, Edith tries to decipher the mystery behind the ghostly visions that haunt her new home. As she comes closer to the truth, Edith may learn that true monsters are made of flesh and blood in "Crimson Peak."

Although it does contain many of the trappings and predictable elements of gothic ghost and romance tales of the past, "Crimson Peak" is a triumph of elegant and sophisticated filmmaking. All the sets and actors successfully immerse the audience in the dark world del Toro has created. He really doesn't miss a beat when it comes to the storytelling here.

I only have two real issues with "Crimson Peak." Its use of CGI for the specters we see isn't convincing at all. The sequences actually pull you out of the viewing experience with their synthetic look pasted against a backdrop of actual physical sets. The other problem is they all remind me of the ghost in "Mama." Maybe this is del Toro's way of tying all his films together and giving them a common thread?

"Crimson Peak" is rated R for bloody violence, some sexual content and brief strong language. We see Tom Hiddleston's rear end in one scene but no female nudity at all. Although there are moments of disturbing imagery, most of the appeal of the film is its creepy settings and characters. There were some children in the screening I attended and I'm sure there were many instances that will haunt their nightmares for years to come.

The use of graphic violence in the film is perfectly sparse enough to shock you when it did appear onscreen. Del Toro's execution of cringe-worthy incidents of gore reminds me of the pacing in many of the classic Hammer period pieces. Instead of tossing buckets of blood into the audience, he stands by the old mantra, "a little goes a long way."

"Crimson Peak" finally convinces me that when he actually gets a project off the ground, Guillermo del Toro can deliver some good work. He gives viewers the sort of classic gothic horror tale I'm positive he grew up on and always wanted to emulate. What really captivated me the most about the film wasn't even the ghosts. It was Jessica Chastain's powerful performance and the beautifully melancholic settings blended with a powerful musical score and chilling soundscape.