When you have a movie whose trailer shows off a Gothic Haunted House kind of story filled with obvious influence from some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works especially that one about a mansion owned by a famous RnB singer, there better be some motherfucking ghosts and their accompanying ghostly shenanigans in the final product. That being said, it should be pretty fucking obvious that CRIMSON PEAK didn’t really meet certain standards that it promised to achieve.
Maybe you could chalk up those failed expectations as the advertisers’ fault for promoting what was actually a Romantic Movie in the wrong way or you could pin the blame on me for expecting a bit too much from Guillermo Del Toro’s latest effort but either way, CRIMSON PEAK is a curious case of cinematic misconceptions and missing the target all together.
If you managed to catch the trailers for this particular movie beforehand, CRIMSON PEAK promised to be a Gothic Romantic story set in a haunted mansion where the spirits of the dead would bugger the hell out of the main characters when in reality, the actual story is anything but haunting. Truth be told, CRIMSON PEAK has more in common with a fucking Afternoon Primetime Soap Opera than a Horror Movie. The plot revolves around an aspiring author by name of Edith who’s swept off her feet by the charms of Tom Hiddleston into the mysterious mansion he owns with his sister up in the barren plains of England, which later serves as the setting for certain nefarious schemes that range from financially motivated to cold blooded vengeance unfold.
Oh and ghosts appear every now and then to remind you that this is a Gothic story.
Love and familial connections are the main priorities here and the movie makes damn sure of this by disproving many of the possible hauntings the moment the cast enters the mansion, which is a waste considering the setting and the amount of potential creative energy that was thrown out the window in favor of a generic romance on Halloween mode.
Without saying too much, CRIMSON PEAK is literally a Soap Opera set in a dingy-ass mansion that looks like the Victorian elite’s equivalent of a hobo’s house. The things that drive the story forward and the truths of the overall conflicts are some of the most predictable shit right out of a crappy Soap Opera from my country’s afternoon time slot in local TV, where a good amount of knowledge on what motivates Evil Rich People in those shitty televised dramas is more than enough to help guess how story arcs end and what twists are coming your way. Storywise, there’s not much here that’s going to surprise anyone who’s seen a Soap Opera before and the only shocks that can be found in this film outside of the spectacular production design are the occasional annoying jump scares done to the tune of the usual sudden chords and loud music, which only makes some of the ghosts’ appearances laughable instead of horrifying, even if they do look fucked up creepy.
The first half of the movie is dedicated to character establishment that builds up the second act and while that may sound all fine and dandy, the pay off isn’t worth it. Sure, the introduction to the characters’ stories could’ve used some trimming down and shortening but it was done well enough to garner some interest in what the story’s players are up to, but when the second act comes along and starts revealing the truth behind the curtains, things fall apart thanks to the melodramatic nature of everyone involved. Motivations are more Freudian and a lot pettier than expected despite how big a threat the movie paints these problems to be, the heroes get shit done via the power of love and friendship and anyone older than the main couples is bound to die all in the name of being a convenient plot device, all of which are well-known mainstays in Soap Operas like STAR WARS. Only this time, the commercial breaks are replaced by random ghost encounters that are bound to give anyone who fears old ladies and the color red a shitton of nightmares.
Yet despite being very by-the-numbers about its marital drama and even if it suffers a lack of anything ghost related actually happening in a fucking Gothic mansion, CRIMSON PEAK is anything but bad. It’s predictable as hell and it would’ve been improved by a long shot if the ghosts had more to do than just a shitty occasional guest appearance but then again, CRIMSON PEAK was created by a dude who knows what the fuck he’s doing.
The plot is complete shit but CRIMSON PEAK from a technical stand point deserves a lot of credit. In its defense, CRIMSON PEAK is well directed, its haunting visuals are beautifully realized, the acting here is more than just serviceable and is quite fine to be honest, and the music does a fucking good job of helping create the foreboding atmosphere when it’s not too busy making sharp noises on a violin just to emphasize the fact that a red lady with only half her fucking head on is floating around in the back. With writing as awkward and overly dramatic as the one found here, someone has to give it to Del Toro for managing to maintain the required seriousness that the scene demands, especially when the British folk start drowning their dialogue in an excess of fancy adjectives and when the biggest insult one could come up with is “Monster.” When things really go all out in the Horror Department, CRIMSON PEAK hits the heights that were promised in the trailers by giving audiences some simple yet effective chase scenes, all of which happen in the movie’s final minutes which for some reason, abandon the whole Psychological Horror style the story was following in favor of some Slasher Horror antics.
As jarring as that tonal shift was, I’m not complaining about it because if CRIMSON PEAK didn’t go all FRIDAY THE 13TH during its concluding moments, the ending would’ve been a sappier and more melodramatic one that would fit perfectly well in a Soap Opera’s finale episode. If that’s what audiences got instead, the inclusion of the supernatural elements would’ve been even more useless than before and to be honest, that version of CRIMSON PEAK would’ve fucking sucked. I prefer Jason Voorhees slaughtering horny teenagers over some Rich Bitch kidnapping the Idiotic Heroine and demanding the Beefacke marry her bitch-ass in trade for the heroine’s life, thank you very much.
Guillermo Del Toro is no doubt one of the best visionaries out there who really puts the word “Art” in Film but his newest movie is a betrayal of the originality his self-made brand stands for. CRIMSON PEAK is a good example of “Style Over Substance,” where the pretty visuals were given more time and effort instead of pimping up the story and giving viewers a good narrative to follow. There’s nothing wrong with following a genre’s tropes, but CRIMSON PEAK is so formulaic and bland that it does nothing new for the Romance Story and instead rehashes a tale we’re already all too familiar with, only this time setting said lover’s quarrel in a mansion that the Addams’ family would lovingly call home. If it’s a ghostly romantic story you’re after, go knocking elsewhere.
At least CRIMSON PEAK does well as a good source for art reference. Seriously, the movie looks fucking beautiful.
PS: If you didn’t get it, I was talking about Edgar Allan Poe’s THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER in the introduction. Yes, I’m fucking witty. Now laugh.
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