Saturday, October 15, 2016

31 Days of Horror: CRIMSON PEAK (2015)

Welcome horror fans, to Day 15 of the 31 DAYS OF HORROR!  We are back with another film in our lead up to Halloween, and today we will be reviewing Guillermo Del Toro's 2015 gothic horror film...CRIMSON PEAK.  Enjoy!

A dark, foreboding castle sits atop a stormy hill wherein a lovely, lonely lady lives amidst an atmosphere of suspense and secrets. This is the world of Gothic Romance, a genre that dates back to the 18th Century. Gothic Romance intermingled love with terror as characters struggled against supernatural forces and fought to overcome the unyielding power of fate. It is in this style that Guillermo Del Toro's Crimson Peak sought to be remembered – housed in the annals of history alongside Frankenstein and "The Raven".

In a time where Paranormal Activity 16 and a series of Conjuring knock-offs make up the landscape of supernatural horror, Crimson Peak failed to reach people. Rotten Tomatoes Certified Critics pushed it to barely fresh with a 71%, while audiences were not nearly as positive, leaving it with a dismal 55%. However, Crimson Peak currently sits at #31 on my list of Favorite Films. For me, it earns its spot with every deliciously evil and fascinatingly horrifying frame.

In this 2015 film, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) falls in love with a mysterious baronet (Tom Hiddleston), leaving her home in America for his estate in England, Crimson Peak. There, she is haunted and terrorized by the ghosts that live within her new home. Slowly, truth escapes the confines of the castle as the grounds of Crimson Peak begin to reveal the bloody secrets buried within its walls.

The primary problems exhibited by Crimson Peak are wrapped in the normal trappings of Del Toro cinema. Set pieces are ridiculous and gore is over-stylized to the point of breaching the wall between stylistic creativity and crashing into the realm of overly-exaggerated melodrama. Crimson Peak is a few steps away from becoming the epitome of “style over substance” as gorgeous visuals are brought to life within a fairly predictable plot. However, within this landscape of gratuitousness and extravagance, audiences come face to face with characters that exhibit an understated darkness and scenes that burn themselves into your memory with their beautiful passionate morbidity.

The film opens with Mia Wasikowska's voice narrating to the audience, “Ghosts are real. This much I know.” It closes with those same two simple sentences. The story is bookended by a simple sentiment – the unavoidable truth of Peak's universe that there is far more to life than that which is immediately evident. The non-human forces that drive the plot of Crimson Peak ebb and flow through every scene, casting shadows and rising up slowly and forebodingly. This is a horror film built on unbreaking tension, not fast flashes of fright. Feelings of dread are earned and not forced upon you as the viewer.

These two contrasting forces – grotesque imagery and subdued story – cause Crimson Peak to appear unbalanced and over-the-top. However, it is in this dichotomy that the true glory of the film can be found. Characters exist as a means to show images of chaotic beauty and tell stories of disturbing calm. In this way, audiences live in the same place as Cushing – lured into a place of visual pleasure where evil is not loud and boisterous, but is soft-spoken, beautiful, and deadly. The world of Crimson Peak is not a pulsing, driving force that whisks you along an adventure of fear, but is an alluring, dread-laced opiate that lulls you to sleep in the darkness and then devours you.

Crimson Peak is not for everyone. For those expecting to be consistently scared and entertained, it can be seen as boring. For those desiring characters that feel fantastical, dialogue and experiences will seem dry. As a throwback to Gothic Romance, however, Crimson Peak largely succeeds. And as a visually-stirring journey down a staircase into the pits of hell, it more than succeeds.

Jonathan's Score: 9/10

Be sure to stay tuned throughout the rest of the month! We're posting a new horror review every day all throughout October, both old and new! Check back to see what movie we'll have you covering your eyes from next!

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1 comment:

  1. I thought this film was beautiful in its way and was visually stunning. Del Toro brought his style heavily into this film and it elevates it. I really didn't like the film as a whole though. I thought it was poorly stitched together and was kind of overall a mess for me personally. I would probably score it a touch higher today (maybe) but when last I saw this I gave it a 4.5/10.