In the spirit of Halloween, The Sis and I decided to spend an evening enjoying, what I hoped would be a wonderful and spooky tale by Guillermo del Toro, with the always lovely Tom Hiddleston. Those two creating a period piece – I’m in!
((sigh)) Oh, Crimson Peak. Yep, you guessed it. It was not all I hoped it would be.
I had been looking forward to this film for months. Del Toro has an interesting vision in all his work, so I expected a great deal more from him. I like the phrase “left wanting” and that is the exact phrase to describe my feelings. The storyline was predictable, and as I sat in the movie theater, I felt sort of bored.
I couldn’t believe it either.
Here’s a quick synopsis: Young rich girl, Edith (MiaWasikowska) marries mysterious poor noble, Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) and moves into his haunted mansion with his strange sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain).
That’s the best I can do without giving too much away. The film is classified as a gothic romance which is true. It’s a mystery in a haunted grand estate that has fallen into shambles, but the plot is a thinly veiled nod to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. Even one of Jane Eyre’s best pieces of dialogue between Mr. Rochester and Jane has been slightly altered and injected into the film. In both stories it’s a beautiful moment of the man declaring his feelings, that the string that binds their hearts together may be able to stretch across an ocean should they be parted, but it is also a bit manipulative on his part to force a declaration from the younger, naive woman.
For me, as a gothic romance, there should be an element of longing. Stories such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and even Dracula have a strong longing between characters. There are a number of obstacles such as social rank, separation, marriage, and even death to create this sense of longing, and that was missing in Crimson Peak.
What it did do, spot on, in fact, was the visual aesthetic. The amazing house, which is the true star of the film, is situated on this desolate spot of land above a red clay quarry. The clay bleeds into the earth above, hence the title. A hole in the ceiling allows for leaves (from absent trees) and snow to drift in which creates a wonderful cinematic image, and the costumes are beautiful, even if sometimes I felt they were time period inappropriate. *Side note, Tom Hiddleston was born to wear a suit, no matter the year.
What it is not is a horror film. I’m pretty sure I remember Stephen King commenting on how scary it was, but it’s not. At all. And this is coming from a scaredy cat. I don’t like horror movies in general, so I was predisposed to being scared by this film and then wasn’t. A little heart palpitation now and again is good for you, or so I’ve heard, so I was looking forward to hiding behind my hands. I didn’t.
I felt the movie took too long to set up the story. There was too much backstory of Edith wanting to be a writer and frivolous side pieces that took away from the rest of the story. This made me feel that some of the story was left undeveloped, and left other story ideas confusing instead of what they were hoping would be thought of as mysterious. And then there was the plot twist. You could see it coming from a mile away, and that’s why I think I was bored. I knew what was coming long before it ever got there.
I know I had high standards for this film (because it was one I actually wanted to see by artists I know do great work), and that’s in part because I’ve been disappointed quite a bit recently, and I expected more from this team.