Saturday, October 24, 2015

Crimson Peak: Gorgeous Gothic Gore

In this age of sequels, adaptations, and films based on board games, watching a movie with a completely original script is quite a rarity. Now visionary director Guillermo del Toro has come to the rescue with the lush and haunting Crimson Peak, a movie that feels like it ought to be based on a gothic romance from the Victorian era but is in fact based on a completely original script by del Toro and Matthew Robbins.

Gothic romance is an extremely difficult genre to explain. It's a little sexy, a little scary, a little melodramatic, and a little horrific. There's an innocent young woman, a mysterious stranger, ghosts, villains, mysteries, and things that go bump in the night. Crimson Peak delivers all this and more. Our heroine is Edith (Mia Wasikowska), an independent and charming woman living in Buffalo at the turn of the 20th century. When an English baronet, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) visit, an unexpected romance brews. After a series of unfortunate and gory events, Edith marries Thomas and goes off to live in the crumbling family mansion in England. At that point you can dial up the horror and intrigue to a hundred.

I won't give away more of the plot; it's fairly rudimentary stuff that you would expect from any gothic tale. Wasikowska, Hiddleston, and Chastain all deliver impeccable performances and keep you guessing until the very end as to what their characters' intentions might be. What is truly spectacular about Crimson Peak is the captivating attention to detail. Whether it's every delicate thread on Wasikowska's costumes, the gorgeous embellishments adorning the furniture in every scene, or the ominous blood-red clay that is seeping into every crack of the mansion and literally warning us of the bloody massacre that is about to ensue, this film is a riveting visual treat. Full credit is due to production designer Thomas E. Sanders, who built the gothic mansion from scratch and has given us a set that will haunt our cinematic memories for decades to come.

The acting is excellent, the vision is impeccable, the story makes you gasp and giggle in equal measure, and it is quite unlike any recent experience you may have had at the movies. Crimson Peak is an utterly original, utterly beguiling film, and it offers up a welcome change from the bland sameness of everything else that Hollywood has been serving up lately. You do not have to beware Crimson Peak - embrace it wholeheartedly and have a frighteningly good time. 

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