This is going to be a tough review to write, probably the toughest of my four years so far reviewing. Negative reviews are tough in general because after seeing a movie I either outright hated or was just disappointed by my urge to want to critique it later is almost non-existent. Truth be told all I want to do is write, “This movie sucked. Don’t see it. Save your money,” but I’m a DVD reviewer and I need to say something more about it than a crude statement like that. But this one is going to be doubly hard because I’m about to give a bad review to a movie of a director I generally hold in high regard. I haven’t liked everything Guillermo del Toro has made, but a majority of it has pleased me greatly, yet even the movies that haven’t grabbed me (i.e. Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II) didn’t disappoint me as much as this new one did.
We’ve been hearing about Crimson Peak for years from Del Toro and what always stuck in my mind was that it was his “epic ghost story movie.” I think I heard later on it was also a romance, or something, but “epic ghost story movie” is what stayed with me. I love ghost stories, but most of the best ones have already been made and they don’t make ghost stories like I think they should be made. Examples of excellent tales of ghosts and haunted houses are as follows: The Uninvited (1944), The Haunting (1963), Legend Of Hell House (1973), The Changeling (1980), Ghost Story (1981), The Entity (1982), Rose Red (2002 min-series), and The Skeptic (2009).
Crimson Peak is not a movie about ghosts or a haunted house. There are ghosts in it, and these ghosts haunt a house, but they are not the focus, they’re bread crumbs of another genre I’m not a general fan of. Crimson Peak is an example of a movie being one thing, or making you think it’s about one genre, then shifting gears and becoming something else. These types of movies are double-edged swords depending on how adapt or don’t adapt to that shift. Crimson Peak is suspense, a gothic romance and a murder mystery disguised as a supernatural tale. And in the final moments it devolves into slasher territory. I’m not a big fan of suspense, mysteries or slashers. If I own any of the former they’re either outright comedies, and/or have a monster or a ghost or some kind of Lovecraftian menace, or even an adaptation of something H.P. Lovecraft has written in it. Regarding the latter I do own a small number of slasher flicks (i.e. Halloween, Halloween II, Friday The 13th (original), Friday The 13th Parts 6 & 7, Jason Goes To Hell, Bride Of Chucky, Curse Of Chucky & Basic Instinct), but I generally do not gravitate to movies where the focus is a psychopath killing a person or persons in some gruesome manner. If I want see that shit I’ll flip on the news to glance at my Facebook news ticker.
Crimson Peak starts out in a genre I’ve been entertained by and devolves into a genre I don’t and I find this out of character for a Del Toro movie. I can naturally assume he probably has favorite flicks in the slasher and murder mystery genres but I’ve never seen him blatantly homage them in a movie like this before. Bottom line, this all boils down to those two genres I don’t normally gravitate to. Had he went from ghost story to a creature feature or a Lovecraftian, and/ alien menace I’d probably be praising him up, left and center about the magnificent job he did, but he didn’t, ergo this bad review. Plus I felt cheated by it because of my assumptions going in, which I partially attribute to Universal’s marketing and Del Toro’s insistence on disguising the primary genre with the supernatural. In fact all the supernatural elements feel out of place, like they were shoved in later to add an “extra dimension” to the movie.
And one more demerit for Del Toro for putting a dog in the movie that eventually gets murdered. The inclusion of animals and little children in horror movies where they eventually get iced is the lowest common denominator in my book. Actually, I get more incensed by directors who murder animals in their movies than kids.
I’m no psychologist so I’m going to just armchair diagnose Crimson Peak’s two siblings, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain) and Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), as a psychopath and a borderline psychotic. Thomas is the one who genuinely falls in love with their mark, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), and even tries to save her at the end making him the clear non-psychopath of the two, while it’s more than crystal clear as the movie hits its stride and secrets become known that Lucille is an unfeeling nutbag who pontificates laughably about how she thinks she knows what love is and the monstrous things it makes one do. And yet it doesn’t stop her in the end from killing the (loved) ones who get in her way.
Thomas and Lucille came from a rich family in England, but their father lost all the money. He was also an abusive fuck. It’s unclear if Lucille killed both of the parents or just the father, it doesn’t matter, all you need to know is she’s a cold-blooded murderer. Thomas has come up with an idea for a machine that can dig out the bloody red clay their crumbling abode sits on and turn it into building material but he needs capital. The M.O. of the siblings is to have Thomas find a rich, young chick to fall in love with, marry and have all that money signed over to him. Once the John Hancock is on the papers, they kill the mark outright. He then uses the money to fund the building of his machine and to keep he and his sister in their crumbling estate.
Lucille and Thomas are also incestuous. The discovery of which was genuinely shocking since you don’t see a lot of movies toy with that taboo. The last time I saw it employed was in the alligator-man movie, Creature (2011), and the reveal in that film of the brother and sister incesting one another was also genuinely shocking. A baby resulted which Lucille killed. Oh, Lucille.
Edith slowly learns of her grim status among the “family” she just married into thanks to the ghosts of the three previous girls the Sharpes killed and buried in the vats down in the clay mines underneath the house. The aforementioned baby even turns up as a ghost being cradled in the arms of one of the revenants trying to warn Edith.
The title Crimson Peak pertains to the winter conditions of the estate, where the bloody, red clay seeps up to the surface when it snows making everything sanguine looking. The locals refer to the area as Crimson Peak when this happens.
Just to offset this negative review a little I loved the early 19th century setting, the ghosts, which do have a few creepy entrances, the crumbling estate and just the general look of the flick, which felt very Del Toro. The acting was superb too. For gorehounds, yes, there are some genuinely gruesome moments that are not connected to the ghosts. Namely the murder of Edith’s father in the beginning, and the eventual murder of Thomas by his sister, both of which feature horrendous wounds to the face and head.
I was also more than a little shocked to see it didn’t have grim ending. Well, for the siblings, yeah, it sure did, but not for Edith.
On February 9th Universal releases Crimson Peak in two editions, a DVD/Blu-ray combo and a stand alone DVD.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—7.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 English DTS, 5.1 Spanish DTS Surround, 5.1 French DTS Surround, DVS (Descriptive Video Service)—English SDH, Spanish, French subs only
Extras included . . .
- Commentary With Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro
- Deleted Scenes (5 scenes to be played separately or all at once)
- I Remember Crimson Peak (Blu-ray Only): 4 Featurettes—The Gothic Corridor (4:06); The Scullery (4:24); The Red Clay Mines (5:18); The Limbo Fog Set (5:41)
- A Primer On Gothic Romance (5:35) (Blu-ray Only)
- The Light And Dark Of Crimson Peak (7:53)
- Hand Tailored Gothic (8:58) (Blu-ray Only)
- A Living Thing (12:11) (Blu-ray Only)
- Beware Of Crimson Peak (7:51)
- Crimson Phantoms (7:02) (Blu-ray Only)
For me . . . there’s, now, on this side all the movies Del Toro has done and on this side over here there’s this odd Crimson Peak movie. I can see why this movie didn’t do well now and I can now understand why Stephen King loved this movie. Though, if true, I don’t think Universal should have killed Del Toro’s Pacific Rim 2 sequel because of it’s lackluster box office intake. I hear he wants to do a remake of Fantastic Voyage now, which also feels like another odd choice in his career. I’ll probably jump back on board the Del Toro band wagon if and when he gets his At The Mountains Of Madness off the ground.
I don’t know, maybe, I just don’t get “gothic romance.”