by Patrick Bromley
I have a strange relationship with Guillermo del Toro. I think he's a great filmmaker and I'm so thankful that he is making movies, particularly because he mixes smaller personal films (Cronos, The Devil's Backbone) with big blockbusters (Pacific Rim, the Hellboy films), both of which feel like an extension of who he is. He's a true visionary, and there should be more filmmakers with as much imagination, passion and vision making films as he does on a massive scale. I love del Toro the person even more than del Toro the filmmaker. He loves all the things I love with all his heart and he lives to put that love back on the screen. We are lucky to have him.
Having said that, it's rare that I fully fall in love with any of his movies -- I appreciate so many things about them but rarely lose myself in them. He's never made something that I have disliked, but only Pan's Labyrinth and Blade II really connect with me. Well, add Crimson Peak to that list. I loved it.
A big deal has been made of the fact that Crimson Peak is not a horror movie; del Toro has been saying as much on his press tour and even has Edith say early in the film that "This is not a ghost story; it's a story with ghosts in it." By my standards, it is still a horror movie -- it has ghosts and murder and a great big spooky house. It is a film positively overflowing with gothic atmosphere, born of a love for Edgar Allan Poe and Hammer and Mario Bava. Crimson Peak is celebration of a specific kind of '60s horror, and del Toro recreates the period perfectly and with the utmost care and respect. I could go on and on about how exquisitely gorgeous the movie is, from the production design by Thomas Sanders to the costumes by Kate Hawley to Brandt Gordon's art direction to Dan Lausten's photography -- everyone involved with the film does incredible work, and I can't think of another movie this year with visuals with which I've fallen more in love. The atmosphere is perfect, so much so that I didn't want the movie to end.
Dragonslayer), offers little in the way of surprise or originality. The dialogue can be clumsy and on the nose at times. None of that matters. Crimson Peak works exactly as it is supposed to work -- it is a feverishly heightened romance and, like all good ghost stories (or stories with ghosts in them) a film about the sins of the past returning. Wasikowska is as ethereal as ever but no mere damsel in distress; her Edith is a woman of intelligence and agency, and when she is swept up in romance it is in spite of herself and not the fulfillment of any girlish fantasies. Hiddleston continues to impress with his every performance, striking just the right balance of charming sincerity and deceptive con man, while Chastain gets to have the most fun as the potentially unhinged Lady Lucille. The film is engaging during the early New York stuff (in large part because of Jim Beaver), but once it gets to England and puts the three actors inside that incredible house it's able to fully become what it's meant to be.