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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Head-to-head: “Crimson Peak’s” aesthetics pleased, but its storyline lacked

    Universal+Pictures

    Universal Pictures

    We’re in the middle of October, and although it can be a little difficult to get in the Halloween spirit due to Tucson’s physical lack of fall, going to a horror film is a sure-fire way to embrace the macabre. Those in search of such grim fare might find themselves in the audience of “Crimson Peak,” Guillermo del Toro’s latest fantastical playground. The film is a throwback to old school haunted tales in the vein of Edgar Allan Poe, as heroine Edith Cushing, played by Mia Wasikowska, is lured to the creepy abode of mysterious strangers Lucille and Thomas Sharpe, played by Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston, respectively.

    GUYTON: Did you like the movie?

    FURRIER: Unlike “The Martian,” which I didn’t personally enjoy but thought most would, I enjoyed most of “Crimson Peak.” [However,] I think others will be greatly disappointed in it. This movie has some serious flaws, but basically I’m a sucker for some Guillermo del Toro action. What about you?

    GUYTON: The day before I saw “Crimson Peak,” I saw “Goosebumps,” and when I juxtapose the two, I have to say that I enjoyed “Goosebumps” more. “Crimson Peak” was inconsistent in a variety of things — most especially the story logic — and I just found myself bored. I mean, it takes us roughly 40 minutes for our protagonist, Edith, to even get to the actual Crimson Peak house. Even though there were some ghosts sprinkled throughout that first act, the exposition still dragged. What did you think about the haunted house not showing up until the second act?

    FURRIER: I thought it was stupid. The pacing of the film was absolutely glacial, and that really took away from the movie. Movies, especially haunted house movies, really don’t need a great amount of exposition. Honestly, I think this story could have been set up in 20 minutes tops, but del Toro felt the need to fill in every detail on the way to Edith ending up at Crimson Peak. Also, no amount of exposition and camera time with Mia Wasikowska could make me root for her. Edith came across as an entitled stick in the mud, and Wasikowska could not handle the responsibility of playing a lead character. The list of flaws in this movie is definitely longer than its successes. Were there any other egregious flaws that stood out to you?

    GUYTON: I agree. The sooner we get into the haunted house, the better. I don’t think I feel as strongly about Wasikowska’s performance as you, but I questioned her character’s actions and motivations, as well as those of the other character’s, quite a bit. I didn’t buy that she would fall for Thomas Sharpe in the blink of an eye, which a large chunk of the story hinges on. That relationship lacked development, even though, as we mentioned, there were 40 minutes of setup. That’s partially performance, but more so writing. Ultimately, the movie tries hard to keep a lot of mysteries up in the air at the expense of character and atmosphere. There are so many questions for such a long time that it’s hard to latch onto anything. When the answers came, I had stopped caring. It’s unfortunate, too, because a Victorian-era haunted house story sounds like the type of thing that del Toro would knock out of the park.

    FURRIER: Exactly, and that’s why the overwhelming reaction to this movie will probably be disappointment. It’s crazy to think that del Toro wrote both this off-the-rails flawed story and a masterpiece like “Pan’s Labyrinth.” I’m glad del Toro convinced someone to give him a ridiculous amount of money to create this haunted house playground, [though.] The aesthetics were a large part of what I found enjoyable about the film. I love del Toro’s creation of Crimson Peak: a multi-generational haunted mansion that is organic in nature. The Sharpes, proprietors of Crimson Peak, famously run a red clay mine directly under the house. Del Toro takes full advantage of this with numerous shots of the ground oozing red clay, faucets pouring out red-tinged water and a basement of mysterious vats filled with the red clay. The dilapidated house howling with the wind and slow swirls of snow falling gently in the main foyer of the house added to the classic haunted house ambiance. Basically, Guillermo del Toro really knows how to wax poetically about the parts of creepy stories people love. Unfortunately, that does not extend to the broken story of this film. Were there any parts of the film you did enjoy?

    GUYTON: The look of the film is its strength, totally. Though we both ragged on the script’s logic issues, a movie is much more than its writing. The Crimson Peak house is a phantasmic, Gothic visual treat, awash with ghoulish green and blue light. In the finale, the snowy grounds are stained red with the clay, as if the earth itself is bleeding. Also, speaking of the finale, my favorite part of the entire film might have been Jessica Chastain going absolutely insane. I thought her character suffered from inconsistency like the rest of the film, but when she flies off her rocker and starts running around in a bloody gown with a hand axe, it’s a good time.

    FURRIER: The ending is entertaining, but for all the wrong reasons. Most of the theater was laughing during the climax, which isn’t the aim of most scary movies. I’ll try not to spoil anything, but at a certain point only so many people can get stabbed. I felt like there should have been a stabbing combo meter on the screen after the fourth stabbing within two minutes or so. Closing thoughts on the film?

    GUYTON: The story issues just couldn’t be overcome for me, unfortunately. The palpable atmosphere of the haunted Crimson Peak could have permeated throughout the entire film, making it an experience that stays with you, but the plot failures just don’t allow the audience to become fully immersed. There’s no other movie that’s currently out that’s horror, so this is all there is for that Halloween mood. If you want to feel festive, I still recommend “Crimson Peak,” but just know that it’s fatally flawed. Your closing thoughts?

    FURRIER: In addition to all we discussed, I really enjoyed the performances of Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain. I was more afraid of Chastain than any of the ghosts. Their performances were juxtaposed by shaky at best portrayals by Mia Wasikowska and Charlie Hunnam. Speaking of Hunnam, for the love of all that is holy, please stop casting him as an American character. His accent in this and “Pacific Rim” was distractingly bad. It is completely fine that every character he plays in the future is inexplicably British. Overall, I enjoyed the movie but only because I’m a del Toro fan. I would caution everyone who is thinking about seeing this movie to know what they’re getting into: not a horror movie as it was marketed, but rather a Gothic romance with great visuals and a broken story. I would give it 2.5 del Toros out of 5. 


    Follow Alex Guyton and Alex Furrier on Twitter. 


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