Friday, 12 February 2016

Crimson Peak (2015)

“As good as Jan de Bont’s THE HAUNTING”

The latest film from Guillermo del Toro, director of CRONOS, THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE, PAN’S LABYRINTH and the HELLBOY movies amongst others, comes to UK Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Universal Pictures. 

America 1887: little Edith Cushing is visited by her mother’s ghost, who warns her to beware of something called ‘Crimson Peak’. Fourteen years later, Edith is now played by Mia Wasikowska and wants to be a writer ‘like Mary Shelley’. She meets Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) who has come to visit her wealthy industrialist father in the hope that he and his colleagues will finance a mining device that Sharpe has invented. 

          Edith’s father refuses and does the ‘Stay away from seducing my daughter because I suspect all you want is my money’ routine, for which he subsequently gets his head bashed in by a not-so-mysterious someone. By the machinations of the overtly contrived gothic plot that this film is, Edith ends up marrying Sir Thomas and goes to live with him and his sister in the UK. In fact, they go to Cumberland, where we see not a sausage but instead lots of the red clay that is apparently common to the area, and which the Sharpes' crumbling old manor house was built on and is slowly sinking into. 

The house has no roof and little in the way of heating. Edith takes a bath and manages not look in the slightest bit chilly, even when she gets out to investigate one of the many ghostly apparitions that begin to appear to her now that she’s firmly ensconced in gothic land. Why are the ghosts appearing? Should the fact that Sir Thomas lives with his sister and absolutely nobody else, not even a single servant, bother her? Will Sir Thomas’ floppy goth haircut get caught in the digging machine he’s set up near the front of the house? It will if he leans any nearer to it, I can tell you.

CRIMSON PEAK looks absolutely gorgeous. The photography is lush and glowing, and the production design is so deliciously gothic you can’t take your eyes of it. But that’s it. There’s really not much else to recommend this one, I’m afraid. The plot is daft and seems to ultimately revolve around killing lots of people in order to build a digger. The two leads (Wasikowska and Hiddleston) play their roles as blandly as the young love interests in a Hammer or Corman/Poe film. The problem is, nobody ever cared about those characters back then either, because it was Price, Cushing and Lee, or even John Carson or Eric Porter, who were the ones keeping us interested. CRIMSON PEAK has nobody to keep us interested. Nobody at all. And when your cast is in danger of being out-acted by the scenery you’re in a lot of trouble.

I wanted to like CRIMSON PEAK. In fact I really wanted to love it. But by fifty minutes in I was desperate for something to actually happen, because by then the seduction of the rich visuals and the lovely sets had worn off. Call it a gothic romance, gothic melodrama, or whatever you like, CRIMSON PEAK is still horribly, horribly boring. Burn Gorman (AND THEN THERE WERE NONE) turns up for a tiny character turn, and only goes to emphasise how sadly lacking CRIMSON PEAK is in actors who can bring the necessary life to gothic characters in a movie like this. There’s no depth, no verve, no energy to any of them. They’re all deader than the house that no-one in their right mind would live in. I’m really, really sorry Guillermo del Toro because I think you’re a fantastic film-maker, but this is movie is just eye candy, in fact eye candy that's so excessive it starts to make your eyes smart after a bit, if you haven’t already fallen asleep.

Universal’s DVD and Blu-ray contains a number of extras for the CRIMSON PEAK fan. There’s a feature-length commentary track by del Toro, five deleted scenes, four tiny making of featurettes (under the collective title I Remember CRIMSON PEAK) and six other short behind the scenes pieces that last between five and twelve minutes each. If I told you they are a bugger to negotiate between the different menus you might say I was being unfair and perhaps I am. But CRIMSON PEAK really is a massively disappointing film. In YA gothic romance terms it’s nowhere near as good as TWILIGHT. In terms of gothic horror I can’t really rate it at all. Sorry Guillermo. 

Universal are releasing Guillermo del Toro's CRIMSON PEAK on Blu-ray and DVD on 15th February 2016

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