Winter is a time for staying the heck indoors, keeping warm, watching movies and stuffing your face with popcorn. Hence, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing. I haven’t written about any films for a while either, so it’s about time! The most recent three I’ve watched have been The Lobster, Crimson Peak and Spy and here’s what I thought. Today; Crimson Peak.
I’ve been a fall of Guillermo Del Toro since I was about 15. I was just old enough to go and see Pan’s Labyrinth when it was released and I totally fell in love with his style. I am not a fan of horror in general; I’m the most jumpy person and even the slightest scare has me clawing the ceiling like a feral cat. When I went to see Pan, my friend and I were the only two people in the screening and we desperately clung to each other throughout the entire film as if that could save us from the mystery and terror unfolding on screen. But it was the mystery that really got me. Did the magical plot ever happen, or was it the wild imagining and of a child trying to escape a miserable life in fascist Spain? I thought about how beautiful and horrible it was for days, and since I’ve always made an effort to go and see Del Toro movies, even though they scare the living shit out of me.
Hence, when Crimson Peak came out I was determined to watch it even if I had to do so through my fingers. Which I basically did, for some of it. I loved Crimson Peak and I thought it was brilliantly directed. The cinematography was incredible and it had some bloody brilliant camera work too. I love a good bit of focus pulling, I think forcing your audiences’ eye to move is a delightful form of torture. In this film, I think they used it particularly well to shift between characters and scary background elements. I have also never seen a film use so much yellow lighting and still look fantastic, but I should clarify that yellow is my least favourite colour because I don’t think “not vulgar use of yellow” is really on anyone else’s criteria list.
The film follows a circular narrative, much like Pan’s Labyrinth, and has some excellent foreshadowing as part of its underlying themes. I don’t want to give away too much though. What I think is particularly interesting about this film is that it really is a traditional gothic horror, which uses the traditional themes of a powerful family in a terrifying house with a dark secret and brings these elements together in a way that frightens modern audiences. I remember watching the innocents, which was one of the first films in cinemascope if I remember rightly, and being unnerved by blurry figures moving in the background as I’m sure audiences back then also would have been. This film uses many of those traditional techniques, but with colour and tension and modern special effects it brings them right up to the modern time to literally scream in your face.
As for plot twists, it kept me intrigued and guessing just enough. I really always try and turn off my brain when watching films so that I won’t figure out the plot, but this one had me really intrigued and wanting to so some puzzling. I didn’t quite get it right, but I was 95% of the way there. Like I said before, the film likes to throw a little bit of foreshadowing in here and there, which I actually think is appropriate given that one of the “rules” of this story is that ghosts exist out of time and space and can warn you about the future; so ghosts of the plot warn the audience too. You might find this an interesting criticism from me, who often complains that actions in film can be too brutal, but I actually thought that Thomas got off really lightly in comparison to Lucille as far as punishment goes.
This is another one of those films where I’m going to really enjoy reading as much as possible about the visual choices and creative direction. I already really enjoyed reading about Lucille’s blue velvet vine dress and how it symbolises her connection with the house. I also really enjoyed the moments where animation and special effects were used; there is a moment where a group of ants eat a butterfly and while in general it’s a heavy handed metaphor the use of that extreme close up was fantastically revolting. This film has style by the bag full and is definitely a great watch for classic horror fans. It has lots of tension and a few jump scares which had me peeking out behind my hands and also lots of gore. I loved the gory parts but they had my friend curling up into a ball for safety in his seat. So, there’s something for everyone.
Lastly, you really do root for Edith during the film. You want her to succeed, rather than some horror films where your protagonists are so annoying that you would just rather see them die. Go Edith go!