Saturday, January 23, 2016

Crimson Peak (2015)

Hearing that this film is more visual style than substance would not have deterred me from the cinemas, but hearing that the storyline is predictable would have (and made me wait for it to come on TV), if not for Tom Hiddleston.

Watching this film was a bit of a fan-girl experience, because Hiddles didn’t make an appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron, which means that the last time I saw him in something ‘new’, was three years ago in The Avengers.

Aside from this, the trailer was random enough that I couldn’t make head or tail, and it piqued my interest enough to want to know what happened without going to Wikipedia.

I guess I could blame my level of expectation on Stephen King. Stephen King had said (six months prior, at previews) that this movie was (and I quote) “fucking terrifying”, and the last time he said something like this was for the 1980s film The Evil Dead.

And everyone knew how that movie turned out, right? As I was telling people, Stephen King is still relevant, he's still putting out books every other year, so to me, there’s no reason I would doubt Stephen King's word on this.

In promos surrounding the movie's opening, the director has been saying (or ‘clarifying’) that the film is a gothic romance with ghosts, rather than a horror movie with romance thrown in.

So it’s not like, ‘buyerviewer beware’, or anything. But despite above ‘warning’ from Guillermo Del Toro, I went in prepared for a romance, but still kinda hoping to get scared shitless (due to Stephen King’s “fucking terrifying” stamp of approval).

Alas, any shitting to be had came from gore rather than actual scares or plot twists. I even managed to guess what the Sharpes were up to even in Act 1. In that sense, I was a bit disappointed in the plot department - I guess I didn’t expect to see it coming so easily.

I'm sure you know the story by now. Young girl becomes enamoured with tall, dark, mysterious stranger, and gets whisked away to his mansion in the middle of nowhere to be with him and his creepy sister. Other creepy things then ensue.

There are some red herrings – Enola Sciotti (or E.S.), I believe, is one, seeing that E.S. could stand for Edith Sharpe or even Eunice Sharpe. Although I’m not sure whether it was meant for Edith to conveniently discover and ask Thomas what Milan is all about. I had the impression that Thomas had a wife originally and her name had begun with E, but in the end his other previous wives had names from letters that weren’t ‘E’.

It’s a bit of a shame, because if you noticed, the central theme of the film was already revealed, mirrored in Edith’s manuscript, and when Thomas beratescriticizes her about it, do note that there are quite many a spoiler in what he said. I thought that was very meta, very cool, and a great foreshadowing of things to come.

And with this, I would’ve preferred the central theme to have been fleshed out more, to see more of what it was of Edith that won Thomas over. There wasn’t really enough of that, and the only scene in which we see something like this is in the one where Thomas goes, “You’re different from the rest”.
It wouldn’t have been easy to strike a balance between both character and plot development, and the rather slow burn of seeing Edith trying to figure out what is going on could have been exchanged with more, well, romance.

Yes, you read right. I am choosing romance over horror. The sap in me is winning this round.

Visually, the movie is gorgeous, and I loved, loved the decrepit, crumbling mansion that is Allerdale Hall. The name ‘Crimson Peak’ comes from the red clay that seeps into the snow during winter. I was reminded a bit of The Shining when our heroine runs out into the snow and tries to defend herself. Luckily, there isn’t much running around – otherwise it’d be a direct copyhomage of The Shining.
Verdict: The movie is very suspenseful; at liberal points in the film I threw my hands up to my eyes (after what happened to Edith’s father), and the ghosts were ghastly enough to make me scrounge my face up and cringe. But I feel the violence and gore are gratuitous, and towards the end there is one unfortunately unintentionally comic scene (and I wasn’t the only one who thought so - my friend cracked up at it). It was the one thing that marred an otherwise intense affair, especially with Lucille all riled up and in crazy banshee mode. I think I would’ve liked the movie more if I hadn’t seen it coming so early in the film.

Still, even Del Toro probably couldn’t bear to harm Hiddles’ cheekbones, eh?