I will begin this review of Crimson Peak by being forthright and honest: I am a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro. So it is understandable if you discount everything I am about to say about Crimson Peak as biased (doubly understandable because this is a review after all and the thing is my bias). I will keep all of this brief to avoid spoilage. I am happy to report to you that GdT created a film that almost matches his Spanish-language films. With Crimson Peak, del Toro crafts what may be the go-to-modern-day reference film for anyone who wants to create Gothic horror (or Gothic anything). The film is gorgeous: from the costuming to the set designs to the rich colors that enhance the already fantastic cinematography. Did I mention that the mansion was built on an Austin sound stage, complete with a working elevator? It was indeed. The only complaint that one might lodge against the vision that del Toro creates here, is that is not a movie about ghosts. It is a Gothic tale with ghosts in it in the vein of Bronte or Shelley or Poe. This makes the movie inherently NOT scary to people who hear or read those words. Allow me to put your mind at ease, there are plenty of terrifying things in this film and a lot more going for it than a simple “ghosts want to kill you” story. This is a tale on par with The Devil’s Backbone. This film has everything you could want in a pre-Halloween ghost tale, but I am not going to enumerate on those things. Instead I am going to keep this short and simple (in regards to Crimson Peak), go see the film. The story is one of Gothic simplicity: Girl meets lord of decaying manor, lord and girl fall in love, girl can see ghosts, ghosts are awesome, and this movie is awesome.
What I do want to spend the rest of my time doing is talking about del Toro’s ghosts. It’s Halloween time and I do love ghosts. I especially love del Toro’s ghosts. His ghosts are warnings, and saviors; they are creatures of violence, from violence but not inherently violent in and of themselves. I love that each and every one of his ghosts bleed, and not just to bleed but in a way meaningful to their passing. It makes for some stunning creature design. They have messages to share with those would listen, pleading for justice or begging the seer to save themselves from a horrible plight. They are the past incarnate, as any good ghost should be, and the fact that they are often not heeded, or not heeded in time, is del Toro’s comment on our own inability to learn from the past.
So picture this then: a man stands before you, a moment ago the room you were standing in was empty and the man before was behind you but you sensed his arrival and whirled to face him. He is sopping wet as if he was standing in the rain, though the setting sun is shining through the window and it has not rained in days. You and he are standing in your bedroom as you ready yourself to go out on a friday night, he does not belong here. You look closer, his skin is sagging and sallow and bruised. There is a large gash across his throat. As you watch, blood pours from the wound and floats into the air, swirling around his face and head. You recognize him now as an long missing uncle of some ill-repute. It was thought he skipped town due to gambling debts. You know now that he is or was floating in a river somewhere, throat cut. He reaches out to you, his lips moving. No sound. His hand reaches to his throat and then into the wound. He pinches the windpipe together. Words flow now. Here is his warning to you: don’t miss this film. Go see it in theaters, the way it was meant to be seen. Bring your friends, your loved ones, and your families to theater this weekend. Support this innovative filmmaker and show Hollywood that you want films that are genuinely scary and unnerving to be released every October, not just Saw or Paranormal Activity sequels. Go see Crimson Peak. Go see the ghosts and enjoy the madness.