Atmosphere you can have sex with…
It’s a rare moment when I feel compelled to pay 10 bones for an actual movie ticket when I know I can just wait for it to come out on Netflix and watch it for the subscription fee along with dozens of other movies. Then there’s Guillermo del Toro. I’ma do my best not to suck his dick fan boy style and give this movie an honest review. But If I’m going to pretend to be honest, I squeed like a little school girl when I saw the previews and pretty much screamed “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” at the automated ticket machine… because I hate humans… and no I don’t want a fucking regal card.
So let me tell you what this movie had that compelled me to watch it. Atmosphere. GOD DAMN this movie had atmosphere. I’m not going to lie, it’s just about all the movie had, but there was enough to make everything it lacked seem second hand. You could feel it through the screen. A ‘reach out and touch it’ visceral atmosphere that was more than captivating, it was encapsulating. Fuck the presence of ghosts, the set itself was a ghost. It breathed, it had character that spoke to you. Nothing was relatable about the characters or the plot, but everything was relatable about set. Anyone whose ever explored abandoned old places knows that melancholy breath that Crimson Peak exhaled. That and the pre-industrial setting was really quite well mocked up. The gowns, the buildings, the character archetypes. Damn, you could just feel it.
I know this really shouldn’t be enough for a movie. I certainly didn’t give Avatar an easy pass for being Fern Gully with giant blue aliens just because the CGI was nice. But god DAMN you could almost fuck the atmosphere.
So of course, there are a few things that I should really harp on to be fair. But before the spoilers, I do recommend this movie to general audiences, not just horror heads.
I know this movie was about atmosphere and the ghosts were really part of the set, not really part of the plot. I know they didn’t have to be playful with the imagery, I know they didn’t have to be subtle, and in fact this might have detracted from the setting, but I still feel like they just showed too much. Bam! Ghost in your face. Right from the get go, creepy rotting skeletal, specters right in your face. I feel like they could have tried to be a little more subtle. That creeping sensation that there’s something behind you, and you don’t want to look but you know it’s there, and its right about to reach out and touch you, but you dare not turn around, even though you can feel it breathing down the back of your neck. The agony of anticipation was simply lost. This movie was not about that, and maybe it should have been. The shadowy black figure of the lead female’s mother just walks right up and crawls into bead with her. And then there’s the Silent Hill moment that follows when she tells her daughter to “Beware of crimson peak.” Really guys? C’mon. If we made fun of Silent Hill for pulling that crap, you’re not going to improve on it.
Plot was utterly predictable. I get the sense that it was supposed to be though. Of course, the main male antagonist was trying to get the main female lead for her money, of course him and his sister killed her father, of course him and his sister were shacking up, of course he was married before and trying to pull the same stunt with other women. This was all obvious and the movie didn’t really make a point of hiding it either. The movie was literally leading you by the hand through the whole plot like it was a guided tour. “And on the right we have the male and female antagonist portrayed as siblings that are, in fact, fucking. On the left we have the ghost of a dead woman who is clearly the vengeful spirit of a woman these incestuous villains had taken for all her money.” If that was intentional, it was really just boring.
I just feel like maybe they didn’t have to do that. I don’t think it would have taken anything away from the movie to make it more of a mystery. I mean, there was clearly some sense of mystery in the movie but it was more of an unavailing of a string of unfortunate events, little bit by little bit.
Then finally the male antagonist tries to prove that he regrets his actions and really does love the female lead. Like what? You killed her father and tried to poison her and now, by some miracle, she’s going to run away with you and your psychotic sister? I mean, at the end they portray him as more naive than the female lead was at the beginning of the movie. And then he gets stabbed in the face.
But GOD DAMN it was all so thick with stimulation. When he gets stabbed in the face, I cringed. The rotting house, you can smell the mildew in the walls. That thick red clay, I checked my shoes after the movie’s to make sure I don’t have any on me. Guillermo del Toro takes the surreal and makes it feel so real.
If anything, watch this for the sheer beauty of it. Nothing else is relevant.