by Camela Thompson
The previews for Crimson Peak more than intrigued me, but I didn't allow myself to get excited. After reading the first two books in The Strain series and a few online transcripts from interviews, del Toro struck me as a misogynist. Sure, you could point at Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy II, but it wasn't enough to make up for the flimsy female characters in The Strain. The television show was trending better, something I attributed to a more diverse team of writers, but they stepped way over the line when Dutch was captured and tortured in "Dead End." Without revealing spoilers, it was a gratuitous maneuver that had no point other than shock value.
My friends assured me that del Toro had a solid history of strong female characters. I could match them point for point. But that trailer spoke to me. The gothic flare, the creepy vibe, and the actors. If nothing else would get me in that theater, Charlie Hunnam (aka Jax Teller), Tom Hiddleston (aka Loki), Mia Wasikowska (aka Alice), and Jim Beaver (aka Bobby Singer) were enough incentive. And just look at the set:
I loved it. So much I watched it twice. In a single weekend.
What I loved.
The casting was tremendous. Every actor carried their part with an effortless air. Tom Hiddleston has a naturally sinister look to him, which was perfect to cast suspicion in the (slightly) wrong direction. He's also capable of expressions of innocence sufficient to cast doubt. Enough that I didn't despise his character, which would have been so easy given the twisted upbringing and subsequent complacency in his sister's reign.
The tension between Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain was delicious. From their first interaction, I seized on the House of Usher vibe. I wasn't at all surprised by the torrid relationship between the siblings, but I was thrilled by Chastain's ability to move from cold void to explosive fury.
It's no secret I have a thing for Charlie Hunnam. Not only is he solidly attractive, but the man can act. His ability to tap into some well of emotion both concerns and awes me. The best aspect of his part in this movie? He doesn't save the girl. Edith is allowed to persevere and pull from a place of mental and physical strength to face her tormentor. Even better? He values and respects her. That's what I call the total package.
Not only did we have a strong female protagonist who was **gasp** valued for her stubborn streak and intellect by the men who loved her. We also see a female antagonist. Which was awesome!! Lucille Sharpe was both physically strong and mentally cunning. It's frequent that women get cast into the role of passive poisoner. Lucille's physical violence rivaled any man. In fact, she held her own against them more than once.
The sets were gorgeous. The physics involved in Allerdale Hall are impossible, but the building is as gorgeous as it is ghastly. The red seeping through the floor and running down the walls was too appropriate to fault. Even the bedroom for ten-year-old Edith impresses. The wallpaper bleeds into the shadowed lines of her mother. The shadows. The cinematography was jaw-dropping.
My very favorite part of the movie involved Edith's writing. She was encouraged to focus more on romance, which was in line with her feminine mind. My husband turned to me and said, "Some things never change." She even considered typing her story to hide her handwriting. That reminds me of considering a pen name....
del Toro. You won me over. This was one kickass movie that celebrated each character as a person.
What didn't work so well.
How did Dr. McMichael get to England so quickly?
The dog was a nice nod to a prior "wife" and the cruelty displayed to it does establish character, but I'm so tired of the dog getting killed off. I could devote an entire post to my rage around this topic.
How exactly did Edith run around on a broken leg? Unless Dr McMichael embellished her injury or it was knocked out of joint (even then, I'm not sure the adrenalin would push her past the pain), this was very odd.
Edith was agonizingly dense about Crimson Peak. Sir Thomas was mining red clay for pigeon's sake. (Note from Camela's husband: "I didn't have an issue with her not recognizing she was already at Crimson Peak since there was not a peak, mountain top, hill, or any elevation gain to speak of at all. It did start off slow, though.")
There were some other minor issues, but I even thought the gore was well executed and appropriate. Overall I would give this movie a solid A.
Have you seen it? What did you think?
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.