- RatedNC16 /GenreHorror
If you’re a bona-fide cinephile, you’ll know that Guillermo del Toro is an unabashed fanboy of all thing pop culture.
The maestro of mayhem and schlock horror is an otaku of the highest order.
Who else can pull of 2013’s ‘Pacific Rim’, which demonstrates the Mexican auteur’s love for Japanese manga like ‘Evangelion’ and ‘Gundam’; or the deliciously bizarre ‘Hellboy’ movies, which are based on Mike Mignola’s comic series.
DEL TORO RETURNS TO HORROR
For ‘Crimson Peak’, del Toro goes back to his first love: horror – namely classic horror from the time of H.P. Lovecraft, Hammer Studios’ Gothic chiller thrillers and the tales of Edgar Allen Poe care of cult director Roger Corman.
Horror movies, as of late, have gone on a minimalist bent -- the scares reduced to timely jumps and basic props, or even just implied.
‘Crimson Peak’ goes against that grain. It is a gory pastiche of ghosts, cobwebs and intrigue, affectionately tied together with lace.
Mia Wasikowska in 'Crimson Peak' | Photo: UIP
Central to the story is the pale and waifish Mia Wasikowska who seems to be the go-to actress when a Victorian era script comes along (or when lace nighties are the main costumes). She plays naïf Edith Cushing, who is a nod to Hammer horror legend Peter Cushing for the non-horror geeks.
Set at the dawn of the 20th century, the movie opens as Edith, and aspiring Mary Shelly, struggling to be taken seriously as a writer.
Living with her self-made construction magnate father in a house that’s haunted by her dead mother, Edith receives nightly visits from a spirit warning her to “Beware of Crimson Peak.”
She attracts the attention of a visiting Brit with a knack for machinery, a Sir Thomas Sharpe (a rakish Tom Hiddleston), who's in town seeking money for a mining venture. He brings with him sister Lucille (a very morose but inspired Jessica Chastain), a perpetual frowner with a knack for the piano.
After Edith’s father gets mysteriously murdered, she falls into the arms of a comforting Thomas, who after wedlock whisks her away to his dusty and cobwebbed family manor in England.
Built on subterranean red clay deposits, the house “bleeds” crimson gunk and is slowly sinking into the earth -- to any sane person that would have ring alarm bells. There Edith’s ghost returns to haunt her and not to mention, other mysterious and seemingly evil forces lurking in the shadows.
AN IMAGINATIVE FILM, BUT THIN PLOT
While it doesn’t have that fearsome fantastical aura and symbolisms of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘Devil’s Backbone’, ‘Crimson Peak’ is as imaginative.
Jessica Chastain in 'Crimson Peak' | Photo: UIP
Horror fans will relish watching the director, with a script co-written by Matthew Robbins, pay homage to the genre’s colourful past with a new lens.
Like his previous films, the supernatural here is both fact and fiction -- a by-product of a character’s imagination or in some instances suggests a projection of their subconscious.
Del Toro exploits that fantasy endlessly here to great effect but the movie stops short of horror greatness no thanks to its predictable story which focuses more on style than substance.
And it’s also hard to overlook the fact that this haunted house thriller barely managed a proper scare (the scariest thing perhaps is the awkward cut, the censors made during a love-making scene). Sorry ladies, you will not get to see Hiddleston's much talked about naked derrière here.
‘Crimson Peak’ opens 15 October