Friday, October 30, 2015

Crimson Peak (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

Is “Crimson Peak”
Gothic Romance
Or Horror Movie?

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

In Guillermo del Toro’s “Crimson Peak,” we encounter Edith Cushing, a gifted 19th-Century authoress who we’re told doesn’t write ghost stories, but stories that happen to have ghosts in them. Thus we might conclude that this isn’t really a horror film, but merely a movie filled to excess with horror trappings – fluttering spirits, howling wind, flickering candelabras, and walls that seem to ooze blood – a garish backdrop for what del Toro insists on calling a gothic romance.

Sure, Edith sees the wraith of her dead mother and other apparitions. “They’re really metaphors,” Edith explains.

In the same way, we’re to assume all this spooky stuff is simply a method for del Toro to indulge his macabre storytelling. The director-writer says he wants this film to honor “the grand dames” of the haunted house genre – Robert Wise’s “The Haunting,” Jack Clayton’s “The Innocents,” and Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.”

“Crimson Peak” is currently creeping out audiences at Tropic Cinema.

Here, Edith (Mia Wasikowska swathed in yellow frocks amid others in dark, somber attire) is a sensitive young lady who gets swept off her feet by Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a penniless baronet who lives with his weird sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) in a crumbling ancestral estate in northern England. This eerie domain lends its name to the movie, “Crimson Peak.”

Following her father’s mysterious death, Edith marries Thomas and goes to live with him and his sister at spooky ol’ Crimson Peak. Turns out, the mansion is situated above an old clay mine that leaches a red goo into the pipes, drips down the walls, and bubbles up through the floorboards. An environmental disaster no doubt. And maybe more.

As it turns out, Thomas and Lucille share a dark secret. And that’s the point of the movie: That Edith’s charming new husband is not who he appears to be.  We’ve seen this theme in movies ranging from “Rebecca” to “Suspicion.” Or “Bluebeard.”

Concerned by a private detective’s report, Edith’s old suitor Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) sets out to England on a mission to rescue her from possible endangerment. But will this quiet, shy man be a match for Thomas’s crazy-as-a-bedbug, wild-eyed, raven-haired, butcher knife-wielding sister?

At times it’s difficult to tell the blood from the red clay.

As one of the wraiths hisses, “Beware of Crimson Peak!” Consider yourself forewarned.

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