A dueling review of Crimson Peak by Mike Gutowski and Nick Berg
Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak, is the latest offering of the spooky yet fairytale like peek into the director’s mind…. Living in L.A. I just recently saw the advertisements for this movie plastered on the sides of buses. I saw no other form of advertisement for this latest movie. I must say that based solely on the imagery …albeit large imagery I was confused as to what this project was and what it was about, I was unsure if it was a contemporary police television drama or some David Lynch-esque movie as Tom Hiddleston evoked thoughts of Kyle McLachlan but it could very well have been the word peak that made this connection in my brain.
I decided to watch a trailer on my tiny phone to see if it was a project worth checking out. I was pleasantly surprised that it was a period piece eerily lit with primary colors, it caught my attention and later that night I went to see the movie. One of the few movies I have gone into knowing very little about the premise.
I was absolutely stoked to check out Del Toro’s new flick. He was heading back to his roots, so it seemed, and the promos made it look like a cross between Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. The trailer really sold me with its colorful and impressive gothic architecture. The CG ghosts in the trailer were a bit of a concern but how bad could it be? I mean we are talking about Guillermo Del Toro here… Well sometimes trailers can be misleading, very misleading.
A second pleasant surprise came within moments of the opening of this movie whereas the setting for these characters development was in my hometown of Buffalo New York, taking place in the late 1890s early 1900s.
Though filmed in Kingston Ontario Canada, I feel as though Del Toro did capture the architecture and feel of turn-of-the-century Buffalo, in both exterior as well as interior shots… though not perfect, even the outdoor park scene did somewhat capture the feel of Delaware Park.
It was mainly the cinematography and lighting that drew me into this film. The trailer quickly conjured thoughts of a cross between Dario Argento’s Suspiria and Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice which is not a bad mix if you ask me.
It is when the characters arrive in England when the lighting and primary colors really start to play into the story telling (I hope this movie does extremely well just for the fact that the sets were incredibly stunning) the house in which the second half took place was out of a dream, A house that if you grew up in you would spend hours, weeks, months and years exploring, hiding and playing in. It made me wish it was the house that I grew up in. Built as a set on a studio lot, this house was magnificent! Everything in there was originally built for this movie, nothing was recycled from any other film which gives it its unique and creepy look. There were many moments when I was preoccupied with thoughts of rifling through drawers peeking into corners opening doors and exploring long hallways of this house, a great way to pull one in.
I hands down agree that this film looked amazing. In fact it’s the most amazing thing about the film. It’s like staring at a beautiful painting. Rich colors, incredible framing and smooth sweeping camera moves. It is a visually stunning Gothic Romance…. Wait romance? Ok I can get down with that as long as it keeps the chills coming, I mean there are ghosts and lots of creepy characters, right? Nope, not really. The trailer showed how grand and visual the film was but it failed to let you know that the ghosts they show have piss all to do with the narrative, oh and those characters in it, good luck trying to give two flying shits about them.
Now onto the story. I felt that this movie was well acted. It seemed much more like a play brought to the big screen, which doesn’t necessarily detract from it at all. What did detract from it was the true intentions of the main characters portrayed by Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain. Progression of their true intentions were not as obviously brought forth as I feel they should have been in order to build the right amount of tension for this film’s finale. The subsequent reveal of the characters intentions were not as grave or sinister as one would expect. Edith (Mia Wasikowska) seemed to have a connection with the specters in the film which led to the unraveling of an unforeseen plot against her. But again I felt it was not as sinister a motive to warrant this stunning film leading to it. One more rewrite (the 23rd) could have brought a truly timeless movie. Please go out and see this movie regardless as it holds true as great entertainment.
Mike is being far too nice here. Yes the film was beautiful and visually impressive, the casting was adequate and Del Toro’s direction (especially with the visual elements) was also up to par. That is where the movie’s merits end. The major problem with this film lies in its screenplay. There was nothing at all in this narrative that makes the audience care in the least bit about these characters. They are one dimensional and wholly uninteresting. We were told we were about to see a ghost story and what we got was a flat, laughably scary Gothic Romance, inhabited by two rich assholes and one dumb one. Honestly there were a few ghosts but they had no bearing on the plot at all and while CGI is often nice to look at it does not add up to making your skin crawl. I was drawn in for about half the film on its visual elements and after that I became increasingly bored. There was nothing worth getting invested in through the story and it held no resonance what so ever. It was a major let down by my estimation. Del Toro had everything he needed for an incredible film, the sets, the cast, etc. but the one thing that was lacking was a cohesive and even remotely interesting story. Mike pointed out that it had 23 re-writes and I disagree it need just one more, it more likely needed 20 less. Somewhere along the way what was once a worthwhile story may have gotten lost in the incessant need to polish it and make it palpable to a major movie going audience. If you are only interested in looking at something beautiful but not being challenged in any way by it then this is your movie. On the other hand if you want both just re-watch Pan’s Labyrinth.