Guillermo Del Toro is a fun director. Films like Pan’s Labyrinth, the Hellboy series, Blade 2, and almost the Silent Hills video-game, Toro is capable of making us care. The man’s known for his flash and oddities and this film Crimson Peak looked like a sure-thing feather in his cap. This isn’t a film I became gleefully excited or giddy for, but it is one I took early-notice of. The director has my admiration, and the comprised cast is capable in their own right. The likes of Tom Hiddleston (Marvel’s Loki), Mia Wasikowska (Stoker and Alice in Wonderland), and Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim and Sons of Anarchy), I was appropriately intrigued. Del Toro is a masterful film-director and box-office poison, and for that, I’m very grateful.
The film focuses itself on an introverted female named Edith with Mary Shelley sized aspirations. That is, evidently, dying a successful writer and dying a widow, as jested in the film. Her mother’s ghost instructs her to “Beware of Crimson Peak” and she becomes romantically linked with a man named Thomas Sharpe. Dubbed more as a Gothic romance than a Horror, the film’s dark-imagery is what brings it to the table. The storyline itself is predictable, but well-constructed. Sometimes what’s seen a mile away shouldn’t be spited or hid for that very sake alone. Sometimes, instead, it should be about creating engaging characters and a platform for the narrative to take shape.
Del Toro does visuals like nobody else. The film had a budget of 55 million which is very substantial for a film such as this, and every bit of it can be seen on the film. The cinematography and visuals are astounding, and if this film doesn’t receive Oscar nominations in that category, it says more about the integrity of the Academy Awards than it does this film. This film has dazzlingly engaging visuals and a style that is so refreshing because you don’t really see it very much, especially in the States. This director isn’t really made for mainstream success, because his style conflicts and clashes so much that it’s difficult to arise beyond niche status. Pacific Rim was an example of him making mainstream cinema and it felt a lot different than what we know from him, but in this, it’s like he was given a bottomless budget and told to ‘have fun,’ and that’s what he did.
The capable cast-members do well with what they’re offered, though I’d say that none of them are allotted the means to head above-and-beyond. Crimson Peak isn’t really about the performances as much as it’s about the atmosphere, and that’s something a lot have the consensus of. It’s not as if any of them have a bad-performance, all of them are capable and respectable actors, but none of them are allowed into second-gear because they’re in the backseat and the man in the driver’s seat is too busy taking the scenic route. (Does that work? I don’t know…) The story itself is like that too. It isn’t about the characters or about the narrative, or anything, and rather, they’re treated like the supporting cast to the setting’s protagonist.
The film has its faults in that regard, but I don’t really knock it hard for any of it. The flaws are evident – the storyline is predictable, the character’s aren’t strongly developed, and the actors are only allowed to work with the bare minimum. Still, it’s that kind-of film. It didn’t need a convoluted narrative or gripping characters, the film tries nothing more than to bring you into this dark and visceral world where the ground encumbers blood-tinted goo. The story. The characters. None of them are bad. They simple don’t excel. They’re competent. More than competent. Solid even. And they’re all they really need to be. They create a platform for the imagery and atmosphere, and they do it well.
Crimson Peak is an above average film. Perhaps not in the conventional way of being one, but in a way of its own. Del Toro may not grab you and shake you to his core through what’s said, but through his very creepy and well-decorated atmosphere, he’ll keep you engaged. It’s different. A throwback to a very different time in horror with an approach we haven’t in a long time, and it’s the best horror film I’ve seen this year by a country-mile.