Day Nine: Crimson Peak (MotM 2020)

crimson peak cover

One day, I will return to writing longer reviews at decent times of the day. Today will not be that day.

From the moment I laid eyes on Crimson Peak‘s cover, I was entranced. Everything from its initial presentation, premise, director (Guillermo del Toro), and cast gave me a feel of “Yeah, this could be fun.” While I have yet to get to Pan’s Labyrinth, I know del Toro as a master of creepy special effects, noteworthy in films by him I’ve seen (both Hellboy‘s, The Shape of Water). Taking on a Gothic period piece involving ghosts just seemed to fit his specificity all the more. I was pretty excited to see it through.

Now, the ghost of regret looms over me.

To give it credit, there’s nothing particularly bad about its execution. Del Toro’s signature effects do give a bit of abject horror to various scenes, and he doesn’t hold back on the more gruesome actions within certain scenes. Visually speaking, Crimson Peak has an aesthetic to die for, with all the blood anyone could ever ask for and more!

There’s blood in this image. Can you spot it?

It’s just, well, everything else. Not bad, per se, but underwhelming. Much of it may lie in the manner of story execution, which feels almost too within the realm of basic Gothic depictions. Everything’s pretty general, with a lot of the finer details seemingly left aside in favor of foreboding scenes of terror and hints of something sinister lurking. I could see this improving with more runtime attached to flesh out the pacing better.

A good example of this involves the relationship between Hiddleston’s and Wasikowska’s characters. They are, supposedly, in love, and this chemistry between them is born from Hiddleston taking interest in Wasikowska’s writing. It then cuts between scenes where they spend some time together, most notably a sensual waltz. Afterwards… it just cuts to a point where they’re assumed to be infatuated, with a plotpoint involved where he must “break her heart.” When exactly had he procured it, though? Some sparks attributed to that waltz, sure, but is that enough to make this everlasting? This, and others scenes like it with little shown context involved, ensures I’m not as invested as I could be.

Not even Hiddleston’s beautiful face could save this.

Performances were also a little shaky. Granted, the writing left much to be desired, and outright excluded poor Charlie Hunman for large portions. If I had to pick a “Best of” prize, I could either go Jessica Chastain for pulling off an insane woman or Wasikowska as a generally likable/sympathetic lead. Most others, even the so-beloved Tom Hiddleston, played their roles adequately, even if they never provided much life to an otherwise somewhat dull script. In a sense, I could see this being an interesting short story, which brushes with broader strokes while leaving the careful motions to the benefits of text, as opposed to live-action performances.

Aside from visual effects and a decent atmosphere, Crimson Peak is a pretty general foray into Gothic horror. Nothing about it outside those mentioned really stands out to me, and it’s unfortunate that that’s the case. There are so few truly great Gothic pictures out there, and if not for Robert Eggers, I can’t think of anyone attempting to bring it back. I appreciate del Toro’s attempt, no matter its final result. Just wish it could’ve been more.

Final Score: 5/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

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