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 Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak

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Donald McKinney
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PostSubject: Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak   Sun Nov 08, 2015 2:26 am

Guillermo Del Toro emerged from making Mexican underground filmmaking with his feature debut Cronos (1993), a dark vampire film which would feature subjects that del Toro would come back to throughout his career. Fairy tales, insects and clockwork mechanics. del Toro had worked under make-up maestro Dick Smith, it was this that helped del Toro get into cinema. Cronos made a positive impact, and del Toro's next film Mimic (1997), should have been a success. But, del Toro had his film butchered by Bob and Harvey Weinstein, however del Toro got  his way with a director's cut in 2011. After that, del Toro planned a smaller, personal film. The Devil's Backbone (2001), a dark, gothic fantasy set during the end of the Spanish Civil War. It's dark but fantastical mood piqued audiences interests, and it helped get del Toro on board for Blade II (2002), and that helped him get Hellboy (2004) made, the latter a dream project for del Toro, and a sequel followed in 2008, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. Between the Hellboy films, del Toro returned to Spain for Pan's Labyrinth (2006), a gothic fantasy and dark fairy tale that was a comment on Franco's Spain too. After the daft, but enjoyable Pacific Rim (2013), del Toro's new film has returned to the tone and structure of Cronos, The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth, a gothic chiller, and one which del Toro and his co-writer Matthew Robbins (Dragonslayer (1981) and Batteries Not Included (1987)), had written back in 2006, but after Pacific Rim did well, this new project seemed the right size project for del Toro, one that didn't have a massive budget, but it had enough room for del Toro's scope and imagination. Crimson Peak see's del Toro back making horror, and it's a visually sumptuous feast with good performances and stunning visuals.

It begins in Buffalo, New York in 1901, where young aspiring writer Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is haunted by visions of her dead mother. Edith can't seem to get her works published, but then she meets English baronet Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who has come to America looking for investment for his clay mining invention, and he's gone to Edith's father Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) looking for money, but Carter is dubious. Then, Edith and Thomas fall for each other, Carter disapproves of this, as does Edith's childhood friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), plus Thomas has brought his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), and they both wear black, and there's something old-fashioned about then. After Carter confronts the Sharpe's about their past, Carter is brutally murdered. Nevertheless, Edith and Thomas marry and they head to the Sharpe's home of Allerdale Hall in Cumberland, which is a dilapidated mansion which sits on a red clay mine which oozes through the floors and walls. Edith tries to settle in, but she's put off by Lucille's cold attitude towards her, and Edith see's gruesome visions of ghost appearing throughout the house, but Lucille puts down Edith's repeated claims of sightings to hallucinations. However, Edith discovers more secrets about the house and about Thomas and Lucille. Meanwhile, back in America, Alan discovers what really happened to Carter, and heads to England to rescue Edith.

This is a very personal film for del Toro, and it's a gothic romance, a ghost story and haunted house film, which was inspired by films like Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963) and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980), there's also a touch of Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) in there too. Visually, it's a triumph, capturing the turn of the century vividly, when electricity and technology was coming in and the likes of the old aristocracy was crumbling in the wake of the new century. Allerdale Hall is a triumph, a multi-storied set with multiple levels and rooms containing dark secrets and odd little trinkets. It's like all haunted houses you've ever seen in films all rolled into one, it's truly grand and gothic. But, one unusual but beautiful aspect of Crimson Peak is the colour that del Toro and cinematographer Dan Laustsen (Mimic (1997) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)), employ. Emulating films by Italian horror maestro Mario Bava, such as Black Sabbath (1963) and Blood and Black Lace (1964), where the lighting in scenes would go from red, blue, green and white to add to mood, this was also copied by Dario Argento for Suspiria (1977), another haunted house story which was an inspiration for Crimson Peak too. For Del Toro, Crimson Peak was the opportunity to make an old fashioned, traditional horror film. Audiences have become too used to "found-footage horror films" as well as countless horror remakes, so this makes for a welcome and refreshing change. It doesn't have scares all the time, and it's pace may require patience, but it builds up it's scares through mood and atmosphere.

The cast are all top notch as well, led by Mia Wasikowska as Edith, the head strong writer who goes with her heart to follow the dashing and unpredictable Thomas. Edith is obviously based on Mary Shelley, another aspiring writer who left one massive legacy. Despite warnings from Edith's friends and family about the Sharpe's, she follows them blindly to Allerdale Hall. Wasikowska is a great young actress, and she's worked with great directors too, and del Toro gets the best from her. Tom Hiddleston as Sir Thomas Sharpe is the film's wild card, you don't know what his Modus operandi truly is or whose side he's really on, and that adds a level of unpredictability and danger to the film. It's a perfect role for Hiddleston, who is charismatic, romantic and deadly, his role and motives in the film will keep you guessing until the end, and beyond. Jessica Chastain's Lucille is a force of nature, moody, prone to outbursts and with her fair share of skeletons in the closet, and is closely modeled on Mrs Danvers from Hitchcock’s Rebecca, cold and icy and always dressed in black, Chastain is truly chilling in this film, and she gives a performance brimming with menace and mystery. Charlie Hunnam worked with del Toro on Pacific Rim (2013), and they reunite here, with Hunnam as Dr. Alan McMichael, who cares for Edith, and can see the Sharpe's for what they truly are, and becomes the Knight in shining armour for the film's third act, and the film is rounded off by Jim Beaver, best known for TV shows such as Supernatural and Deadwood, as the proud and enigmatic Carter, who cares for his daughter and is distrustful towards the Sharpe's, and he represents the rise of American enterprise and money that came in during the early 20th Century. There's also cameos from Burn Gorman (also from Pacific Rim) and del Toro regular Doug Jones in Crimson Peak.





Crimson Peak see's del Toro back making dark horror-fantasy, although this one gives a nod and a wink to literary works such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and Great Expectations. It's also a great companion piece to del Toro's Spanish language films, and it's one with scope and imagination. It's always good to see del Toro make films, but he hasn't made enough. He's 9 films to date, and there was a pause of 5 years as Del Toro was briefly sidelined to do The Hobbit, and after 2 years of development hell no thanks to MGM going bankrupt, Del Toro walked. He briefly worked on an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness with James Cameron producing, but the adult theme put the kibosh on that, but del Toro still wants to do it. But, Crimson Peak will tide audiences over until del Toro returns, and it's a refreshing change to see an original horror film being made for a change, and one as beautiful and lavish as this one. It might not be to many audiences tastes, but this one will garner cult status over the years, as have many of del Toro's works. He's a film geek, and he loves cinema, and it shows in his films. Crimson Peak is a triumph of mood and atmosphere, and it's a beautiful visual feast, and it's a film to be cherished, as there's not many films you'll see like this one.
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PostSubject: Re: Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak   Sun Nov 08, 2015 3:19 am

Great write-up as ever, Don. Glad you liked it.

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Frakkin toasters!

So, what, the murder weapon was a top sirloin?

He's a klutz, Mrs. Landingham. Your president's a geek!
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PostSubject: Re: Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak   Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:37 pm

Like I said, a new Guillermo Del Toro film is always a cause for celebration. Wink
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