Crimson Peak (2015) Movie Review Crimson Peak (2015) Movie Review
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"Crimson Peak is a tribute to an era of patience, back when people actually had faith in the art of visual poetry and graphic... Crimson Peak (2015) Movie Review

“His ultimate masterpiece” is one of the tag-lines that come along with the trailer for Guillermo Del Toro’s latest motion picture, Crimson Peak; A dark and gothic yet romantic tale of love, obsession, and emotional captivity. It’s a story about people being trapped in a time and place, unable to move on from the tragedy that has befallen them, and incapable of finding reconciliation with the past that haunts. That’s all I can really say without spoiling the fun of the mystery. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out how these themes fit into the puzzle. What I will say, though, is that the before-mentioned tagline is anything but just a deceptive marketing trick. The hype is real. This truly is the magnum opus of one of the most visionary directors working in mainstream cinema today.

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The movie follows Edith Cushing, the daughter of a self-made american industrialist, who as a child is haunted by the ghost of her deceased mother, telling her to beware of something called Crimson Peak. Edith has no idea what that means, but she can’t seem to let it go. Years later, as a young adult, we find her to be an aspiring fiction writer, trying to get her manuscript sold and published. But no one is interested in reading her ghost stories, and her own social circle constantly taunts her for being unwilling to marry herself away to a wealthy man. In fact, she is so reluctant to fall in love, she even tells them she always liked Marry Shelley, because she died a widow. But when the young and handsome aristocrat Thomas Sharpe visits town on business, he sweeps young Edith off her feet and takes her away to his mansion in England, where dark and sinister secrets hide around every corner. It’s only a matter of time before they reveal themselves.

Del Toro has claimed this to be the most beautiful movie he’s ever made, but even that is an understatement to me. This is not just his best-looking film to date, it’s also one of the most visually stunning pieces of cinema I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s the kind of rare experience that demands to be seen on the big screen, preferably in full-blown IMAX. Anything less would be an insult to the filmmakers, who have dedicated every waking minute of their lives the past few years to craft an impeccable construction of lush practical sets, carefully used CGI, and meticulous production design. Every shot and every frame is a work of art all on its own, booming with colourful majesty and richly detailed scenography that takes us far beyond the realm of reality and into a wonderland of gothic beauty. We’re not just talking about technical perfection here, but also a level of aesthetic sophistication that only very few storytellers possess in this day and age. Del Toro is one of them, perhaps the finest we’ve ever had. He understands the language of moving images better than most of his peers, and here he really gets to show that with utmost precision.

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Critics often complain that movies like this are more style than substance. I beg to differ. Quite contrary, I think that the style here is the substance in many ways. The lavish costumes, the grandiose set-pieces, the extravagant props. These things are almost as important, if not more, than the plot itself. Because if you strip away all the grandeur and the presentation, what you have is essentially a very simple horror-romance. It’s not so much about where it goes, but how it gets there that matters. The actors often walk a tightrope between pure melodrama and genuine emotion, and this is part of the fun. Everything feels very theatrical and baroque in nature. When characters have something to say it, they’ll say it without any subtlety or restraint. When they cry, they cry with a flaming passion. Sort of like a shakespearian play, if it had a 55 million dollar budget to work with. I suppose that is both the biggest pull and the biggest push of the film. It’s not your typical, post-modern slice-and-dice techno-thriller. It’s not driven by shock and and gore, but by mood and atmosphere. I say that because I’m sure a lot of people in the mainstream audience will be put off by how slow the pace is. The millennial generation is defined by its short attention span, and if you don’t blow something up or kill a person every 10th minute, they are going to check out before act 1 is even over. It’s sad but true, and Crimson Peak is not catering to that mentality.

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I guess it really is a movie for people who love movies. It kills me to say that, because it shouldn’t have to be that way. But whether I like it or not, the masses want processed happy meals and sugary mountain dew, not home-cooked steak and fine wine. Del Toro and his creations seem to exist in a different time and place, too old-fashioned for the 21st century moviegoer. Crimson Peak is a tribute to an era of patience, back when people actually had faith in the art of visual poetry and graphic storytelling. It wasn’t just about constant release of exposition, it was about keeping the audience guessing until the very end, craving for more until they would nearly burst because of the tension. It must also be mentioned that this is the type of experience that only gets better with repeated viewings. Each time the meaning of it all becomes clearer and clearer, as it gradually reveals itself to you through tiny visual clues, symbols, pieces of dialogue, and body language – small but crucial informations and gestures that even the most observant critic will not be able see the first time around. It’s just not possible, and therefore it’s also easy to just write off the film as clichéd, nonsensical, and boring. But the truth is that the execution here is flawless, like a jigsaw puzzle waiting for you to solve it. It’s a smart movie for smart people, made with the purpose of making you feel lost in its immersive universe, but ultimately figure out that there is a deeper reality hidden beneath the shimmery facade of it all. It’s been ages since we’ve had something so pure, visceral, and magnetic in its visual narrative, and it certainly is one of the year’s finest movies. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and I hope this review convinced you to see it.

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Mathias Folsted Film/Music/TV critic, columnist, and news-writer

An aspiring filmmaker, film critic and YouTuber. Previous experience include extensive work for the largest danish film site, www.filmz.dk, where I served as junior editor, film critic, columnist, and news writer. Also a graduate from the European Film College, I've been a lover of motion pictures for as long as I can remember. My criticism is always honest, but above all emotional.

  • I’ve wanted to see this film from the moment I first heard of it. Nice review, Mathias.

  • Mathias

    Thanks man! I might do a full analysis of the film soon, because I’ve only really covered about half of what I had to say about it here in this review. I also purchased “Crimson Peak: The Art of Darkness” the other day. One of the most gorgeous, well-constructed, and insightful art books I’ve ever read in my life. Too bad the movie itself is not performing well at the box-office. It’s a damn shame, if you ask me. Hope you love it as much as I do! Remember to be very aware of EVERYTHING you see and hear in the film. Trust me, it all fits into the larger puzzle.

  • Yeah, been a Del Toro fan a loooong time. When he said that this was a spiritual successor to his spanish-language films, it was an instant “ass-in-seat” for me.

  • Sagamanus

    Liking that imagery.

  • Sagamanus

    Great review dude.

  • Mathias

    Thanks! I’m glad you liked it.

  • JAGUART

    I saw this on Tues 10/20. I thought it was solid. Light on scares and horror, more on mood, atmosphere and story.

  • Zed

    My pretty good expectations have now been raised.

  • Looking forward to seeing this Wednesday.

  • Tarmac492.1

    Great review. To be honest, the trailer and the movie spot with that what looked like cgi ghost watered down my expectations. However, this has gotten good write-ups. Did this film only have a $55 million budget? If so, they did an amazing job with it. You can tell that just from the trailer. I also believe it is not just the millennial generation with the short attention span. You could include gen x’ers and probably some baby boomers as well. Everyone wants things to happen right away so they can get on their smartphones and tell the world about it.

  • Very well written. But I have to see it myself. I’ve grown a little wary of Del Toro since Pacific Rim.

  • Mathias

    Yes, the budget was 55 million. Almost everything was spend of tangible, practical costumes and sets. Did you know almost the whole mansion was build from the ground up? I mean, that is just fantastic! Guillermo wanted the movie too feel organic, like someone hand-crafted the world. Even the ghosts are real people in costumes, with added CGI later. That’s about it + the ghosts have very minimal appearance in the film. Like the main character says: “It’s a story with ghosts in it”, not the other way around. It’s such a shame that this movie is performing so poorly at the box office….

  • Tarmac492.1

    That is amazing. Only 55 mil. That is really cool that most everything is practical. It reminds me of Coppola’s Dracula, a flick that I thought was a work of art through every frame. I shall try and see this one soon!!

  • Tarmac492.1

    He could be heading down Tim Burton lane.

  • Mathias

    Haha, I can’t stand Dracula. This one balances the gothic romance elements much better, if you ask me + Keanu Reeves was awful in “Dracula”! I just can’t get over that… But if you thought that was a work of art through every frame, this one will blow you away!

  • Tarmac492.1

    agreed about keanu. Not sure what they were thinking. I love the rest for what Coppola was attempting. with varying success for people. I am looking forward to CP.

  • KilliK

    “the ghosts have very minimal appearance in the film.”

    that’s why it bombed.

  • Mathias

    And you don’t think that’s very sad?

  • Not a fan of GDT but I’ll probably give it a chance at the wife’s behest.

  • So Del Toro finally made an english language movie that matches his spanish language movies? Cool. Anything to make me forget he made Pacific Rim is a good thing.

  • And don’t forget english is his second language. He’s danish.

  • Funny enough, of all the cast in that movie that didn’t come from the UK, Keanu was the american actor with the most legitimate reason to be cast as an englishman because his mother is indeed english.

  • So like a 70s horror film? Cool!!

  • Mathias, i’m planing on visiting Copenhagen next year’s summer.

  • Mathias

    More like 1940’s and 1950’s horror movies. Think Hitchcock’s “Rebecca”, or “Jane Eyre”.

  • Mathias

    Cool. Too bad I live in the other end of the country. We could’ve done a meet-up or something + I am actually planning to go to the US, haha. That is if I can get a god damn job in this country where jobs are nowhere to be found lately… Thank god we have universal healthcare and social security + my heritage helps too.

  • Mathias

    Listen to your wife! She’s obviously a very smart woman 😉

  • Mathias

    Yes, I would say that is the case here. That being said, I actually really enjoyed Pacific Rim. Take that however you want 😛

  • KilliK

    The only sad thing is that GDT and the marketing department fucked up. GDT’s fans were expecting a horror movie, not a romance, and I doubt the rest of the audience even knew whom this movie was for. And frankly, a $55m budget for a movie with such a niche target group, is a bit excessive. he could cut a few millions by reducing the star power of his cast which after all did jack shit for the BO performance of his film. there is a reason we dont see expensive horror films.

    anyway, if the movie is as good as you claim in your review, then at least they have the opportunity to reintroduce it properly to the home cinema audience. maybe they can even compensate for the BO loses.

  • Mathias

    Well, you just counter-argued your own point about it not being a horror movie, when you said there is a reason why horror movies are not so expensive. This is NOT a horror movie. I don’t even think the trailer makes that perfectly clear, to be honest. You can clearly tell this is a different style and pace than your usual “Paranormal Activity” ghost flick + Of course we should let filmmakers create great, masterful works like this! Are you crazy! I think the problem is the audience here, not the filmmakers. Besides, a lot of people have seen it, but for some reason they have written it off before the first act is even over. It’s a mentality that has to be changed. I will wave the flags for films like this until I die; great visual storytelling, well-written characters, and contrary to popular belief, LOTS OF SCARY and SUSPENSEFUL moments. We should be grateful for this kind of thing, especially when it’s THAT good, and not trash it like so many people are, mostly without any real arguments to back up their statements.

    I hope they sell a lot of Blu-Rays. I certainly will be buying it in every format I can get, that’s for sure. And to the point with the marketing; if I saw a trailer for a movie that looked like your typical scarefest, went to see it, and discovered that there was so much more to it than that, I would clap my hands in joy. I agree they could’ve marketed it better, but I think that’s a lousy excuse not to appreciate it when it when you actually see it. A good movie is a good movie, regardless of how it was marketed. That’s how I feel, at least.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    I was extremely disappointed in this film. Felt like it brought nothing new or original to the table. I seriously felt I was watching a compilation of scenes/ideas Del Toro fancied. Yes the film is beautiful, but it wasn’t scary, wasn’t suspenseful, everything that happened has been seen/done before BETTER! Was so looking forward to this being good. The marketing of this film sucked, almost to the point of a bait and switch! I would suggest going to watch something else.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    It wasn’t that good

  • Mathias

    Wow, I couldn’t disagree more. This idea has been done before, usually much worse + it think it’s highly original in its execution of the premise. I thought it was extremely suspense, and also genuinely tragic and terrifying. I’ll have a full analysis up sometime soon, which will hopefully explain my thoughts on the film in greater detail.

  • JAGUART

    “Gaslight” with ghosts 🙂

  • Dr. Geiszler, Kaijuologist

    Really loved this one.

  • I’m not american, i’m portuguese.
    I’d love to met with you. Well, how about Roskilde as a middle point? There is a cool Viking musseaum there i plan to visit. Not a far away travel by train from ol’ Copenhagen, i believe.
    For some reason i assumed you were from Copenhagen. Sorry. Where you live?

  • Now that’s an endorsement.

  • Booger T

    it was good. very well put together. but it was missing the part that made me care. And I’m sick of the “ghosts are good guys” thing. I know its del toro’s whole thesis but here it doesnt work for me.

  • I like me some Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain. Can’t get enough of this two.

    Wasiowska was amazing in “Stocker”. She has a knack to star in horror movies.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    I look forward to that. Nice review, just did not enjoy the film myself

  • Mathias

    Even Odense and Roskilde are too far away. It takes about 5-6 hours to get there by train. If you look at the map, I live all the way up north, near the tip. Trust me, it’s expensive as hell to travel to the capital from where I live! Going to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in IMAX around christmas will ruin me for a while… haha 😛

  • Tarmac492.1

    English is ur 2nd language, no? U write fine. Not sure how much of a barrier that is for a director, as long as their is someone to help. barbet schroeder(assuming english is not his first language) has nailed several different american dialects, the drunk skid row philosophers(barfly) the rich( reversal of fortune) and the street thugs(kiss of death(

  • Barbet Schroeder is french. Some directors have a knack for noticing dialects, even in foreigners. For example, Alfonso Cuaron noticed very quickly that Michael Gambon was affecting a subtle irish accent when he first played Dumbledore.

  • I’m assuming you are not from Arhus, then. That’s more like a 3 hours train ride to the capital.
    After i’m in Copenhagen, i plan to take a train to Gothenburg. I also heard good things about that city. And yes, i know that’s Sweden. Would be cool to travel on the Bridge, as that has become a bit mythical to me thanks to watching the TV series Broen/Brogen.

  • Del Toro does not sound Danish to me.

  • Bop

    Del Toro doesn’t always great movies, but the visual aspects in them I often find breathtaking.

  • Bop

    I didn’t even recognize Hunnam in that photo.

  • Bop

    Have fun, Asi.

  • Mathias

    That’s because he’s Mexican.

  • Mathias

    Totally fair 🙂

  • Mathias

    No, I live further up than that, which adds approximately 2 hours more to my journey.

  • Nor Dee austrian.

  • Thanks. I plan to. It’s only next summer, though, plenty of time to wait until then. And hopefully the politicians in my country will not fuck up the economy more so i can actually afford the vacations.

  • I should had enjoyed PR, but i just couldn’t. The movie felt lie a complete non-entity for me. Also, getting inspiration from Top Gun is hardly the way to engraciate with me.

  • And my real name is completely unpronounceable, so I just stick with this Disqus handle

  • I suppose the people from Estonia might know how to pronounce your finnish name.

  • Perhaps

  • Zed

    Del Toro’s best work to date. Accomplishes what he was trying to do with Pacific Rim by borrowing from other material, but paying interest. Crimson Peak is a work of art, and will stand the test of time. Jack Black and 90’s nostalgic CGI dog vomit will not.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    Agreed

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    70s horror were actually heavy on scares and horror, depending on which ones you see. Trust me, Crimson Peak is not a horror story. It is a romance packaged as one

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    I hope you are being sarcastic. Definitely not Del Toro’s best

  • Mathias

    I’m on Zed’s side here. Definitely his best work to date.

  • Zed

    I’m that one guy who wasn’t thrilled with Pan’s Labyrinth.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    Me either, I liked it, and once again, the film looked beautiful, but I did not go ape shit over it like some. The sad part, Hellboy is probably the film I liked the most of his. All his films look great, but seem to have a lot of style over substance. Cronos and The Devils backbone were also ones I really liked.

  • Funny, I also like Hellboy the best. It has a certain energy about it most of his other movies lack.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    Agreed. I find myself watching it, Hellboy, over again unlike his other films.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    I agree on Dracula, really liked that film, and still do.

  • Full Frontal Throttle

    Look forward to it, just don’t set expectations too high. It is a beautiful looking film…………………

  • Zed

    I think Hellboy is his second best, followed by Cronos.