ComiConverse Contributor Craig Caudill reviews Guillermo Del Toro’s latest film, Crimson Peak.
My first reaction to viewing Guillermo Del Toro’s latest work, Crimson Peak, was that it was either the sequel to 28 Days or Devil’s Back Bone. Right now, I’m not sure. All I can say is, it’s a glorious blur. But the impression has left a mark on me to last a life time. After watching Del Toro’s latest supernatural thriller, I am reminded of the Simpsons episode where Montgomery C. Burns is itching to have a biopic film of himself. He tells Mr. Smithers “Get me Steven Spielberg.” Mr. Smithers reminds him that Spielberg would be unavailable. To which Mr. Burns says, “Fine, then get me his cheaper Mexican equivalent.” I’m paraphrasing here, but I think Mr. Burns would have been happy with the results if he hired Mr. Del Toro.
Crimson Peak worked on many levels. It was an edgy film complete with nods to silent era scene transitions, slightly steam punk gadgets, and optic photography wall projections. I often feel I’ve seen it all and read it all. In a world were production companies rely heavily on pop cultural referencing as a safety net or crutch, Del Toro handles his subject matter with more nuance. There is no Tarantino-esque dialog or endless references to Star Wars. In Crimson Peak, I feel as if he is creating his own frame of reference while drawing on the aesthetic of Jane Austin. Based on this film, I would love to see Del Toro’s take on a space opera like Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers. I feel he would maintain the old swash buckling of matinee theatre, with a modern twist rather than creating a hyper-CGI remake.
Crimson Peak is about a young woman, Edith Cushing, who dreams one day of becoming a writer. She is specifically interested in ghost stories and all thing that go bump in the night. In her dreams she is visited by a ghost, and throughout the whole movie. Which we shall find out later.
Unfortunately for Edith, she is a female writer in an era when many women writers were not taken seriously. Edith is discriminated against because of her penmanship, which is deemed too florid. Her next course of action is to switch to a typewriter. Eventually, Edith finds herself being courted by a smooth British gentleman, Thomas Sharpe, played by Tom Hiddleston, best known for his turn as Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Sharpe is visiting America with his sister to try and secure funding for a clay mining invention.
Soon after, we find Edith being wooed after her father’s passing. Though his death is ruled accidental, it comes after he refuses Thomas Sharpe and his sister Lucille money for the invention. Edith is whisked away by Thomas to England to live with him and his sister in a castle, which appears to ooze a red clay substance. I will refrain from going into too much detail here to avoid spoilers, however, I will say: spectral warnings, Thomas’ money troubles, his easy manner with women, and his (too?) close connection to his sister combine to create the foundation for the film’s bloody climax.
Charlie Hunnam: A Bit Out of Place
I also want to mention Charlie Hunnam, best know for his portrayal of Jax in Sons of Anarchy. Hunam portrays Edith’s childhood friend, Dr. Alan McMichael. While Hunnam is a fine actor, he does not seem to fit in the time period of the movie. Hunnam did not have an easy time making this film. He had already accepted the role in Crimson Peak when he was offered the lead in Fifty Shades of Grey. Part of the reason he left Fifty Shades was because he had already committed to Crimson Peak. Though I don’t feel he was right in this role, I loved his work on Sons of Anarchy and hope that he finds more work that suits him better.
Since I don’t want to spoil anything from this movie, which has more than a few twists and turns, I just want you to prepare yourself for a good flick. I was impressed with the steam punk gadgets and the fact that they didn’t feel like an overload. I particularly enjoyed the gramophone player and another device which played recorded journal entries of people important to the story.
Overall, this was a great film. I’m always excited to see what Del Toro is up to. I’ve read his Strain novels, which were awesome, and I can’t wait for the second season of that show. I will also be looking for his next projects, like the long awaited Carnival Row which will be coming out soon on Amazon. Based on how well Del Toro engaged with the texture of an era while retaining his fresh directorial perspective inCrimson Peak, I can’t wait to see what he does with Pinocchio. That should be very strange.
Craig Caudill is a contributor to ComicConverse. Follow him on twitter: @craigcaudill