Crimson Peak

“Can you describe a horror film as beautiful? Because that’s the word I keep coming back to for describing Crimson Peak: beautiful. But aren’t there creepy skeletal ghosts and what looks like blood dripping everywhere and various other spookies that go bump in the night? Well, yeah, but can’t those be beautiful too?

I often refer to Eli Roth as the current master of horror, but the truth is, he is the master of a current subset of the genre, the more active scare you out of your seat and show lots of blood type. If you want more of a classic, gothic horror, Guillermo del Toro’s your guy. He’s the one that will create incredible and emotive imagery, building out the world of his fantasy (or nightmares). He’s not going to run up behind you and say “”boo””, but he’ll immerse you in his unsettling atmosphere. Just watch Pan’s Labyrinth if you have yet to be converted to the church of del Toro.

Crimson Peak takes us back a few eras, to the turn of the 20th century. Young Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is sought after by her familiar old friend Alan (Charlie Hunnam), and mysterious stranger Thomas (Tom Hiddleston). Distraught from a family tragedy, she runs into the arms of Thomas, who soon whisks her away to the crumbling mansion he shares with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). The mansion itself provides host to many horrors that disturb Edith and invoke a ghostly warning she received in her childhood.

Okay, creepy, but how is that beautiful? The one point that I found absolutely brilliant was that the house was built in an area that was rich in red clay, which Thomas was trying to mine for profit. This meant that there was thick red blood-like substance everywhere: flowing down the walls, seeping up from the ground and staining the snow, dispersed along the floor and tracked onto the bottom of garments, which by themselves, the period costumes were stunning. As someone who does love the ambiance of horror, the clay was so effective in setting the scene as a clever solution to have a similar effect as gore, without actually going there (except for a couple key scenes). On top of that, the decrepit house had a gaping hole in the roof, causing it to snow into the foyer. The snow would gently fall as the viscous clay would slowly run, creating a setting unlike anything I’d ever seen.

Right, so visuals, check. Story? Fairly simple, but well structured around mystery. Things unfolded at that pace that is just above frustrating, where you’re just dying to know what the underlying cause is for everything. What’s the mystery around these strange siblings? What was with the ghost’s warning about the mansion? Why are there ghosts inhabiting the house? Each question hanging for long enough that their resolution was deeply satisfying. And such a superb cast, kicking things up a notch.

Nearly two weeks ago, I was at Universals’ Haunted Horror Nights in LA. There was a Crimson Peak maze. I was excited to go thru it because I expected much of the beautiful horrors that the film’s trailer had teased (I hadn’t yet seen the film). While the maze may have been a bust in that respect (it was still scary, but not particularly remarkable), the film itself delivered far more than I expected. Now as the fall air gets colder, I just want to wrap up in blankets with hot chocolate and rewatch Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphange, really basking in the gothic beauty del Toro is capable of.

Crimson Peak – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/”

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