Saturday, October 17, 2015

31 Days of Halloween 2015: Crimson Peak

2015, Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy) --- cinema

Finally. Finally a great movie. What a relief.

P.S. Peak, not plural, not Twin Peaks reference.

Crimson Peak is a creepy gothic romance period piece. Let's get that straight. It is not, primarily, a horror movie. It is a throwback to the period storytelling where the setting and the characters were much more important than the ghosts, with often the latter being metaphorical in nature - as in main character Edith Cushing's novel. But don't get me wrong, there are some very fucking scary ghosts in this movie, but their impact on the story is not as important as the setting and characters.

Oh, the setting. We know well del Toro loves to set dress, but once he gets the story to the Cumberland region of England, it is just jaw dropping. A crumbling, and I mean holes in the roof crumbling, old stately manner on a snowy moor in the middle of  nowhere is where we spend much of the movie. Edith and her new husband Thomas Sharpe (run away! Its Loki in yet another disguise!) move here after the unfortunate death of Edith's father. The Sharpes, Thomas and sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain in a role that was channeling Eva Green) are down on their luck and seek the infusion of Edith's inheritance. Nefarious plans! Creepy family! Even more creepy house!

This house! Sinking into the red clay bogs, it has sucked up and is expelling the clay -- the walls literally bleed red at random intervals. They cannot afford to repair, so everything is in a state of haunted house disrepair yet they live in it all by themselves. No servants to get in the way of their dastardly plans. There is a creaking, swaying elevator that goes up to the attic workshop full of creepy toys and down to the cellar with the clay pots, that look more like places to punish wayward wives. And moths have made their home everywhere, fluttering and flitting about in the dark shadows like so many shades of death foretold. And yet, in all that, it is so beautiful in its decay, so well laid out with the hints of glamour once was.

del Toro tells a tale of wife beset by her husband and his sister. At first we suspect the ghosts may wish her harm, as they are the scariest spectral entities to haunt the screen since Mama, of which del Toro had his fingers in. But in gothic fashion, the people involved are the true villains. Poor Edith, will she escape the clutches of the Sharpes? Well, if still-playing-American-even-in-England Charlie Hunnam as Dr. McMichael has a say!

I have to watch a currently set movie with Mia Wasikowska to see if she is unfairly type cast. Ever since we saw her in Jane Eyre she has been in period pieces. And I kept on turning my head slightly to the right, thinking this movie was her Alice in Wonderland character learning just how nasty the real world can be. But she is fabulous here, not a truly weak willed wallflower as the role is meant to be, but very much in control of her fate. She doesn't really need to be rescued by Charlie, just requires a bit of assistance. She has it in hand.

So, for the Halloween season, I think it is the perfect choice. Hauntingly beautiful as it is haunting. And yes David, I am pretty sure I saw a blurry image of you in the background, over someone's shoulder.