Saturday, 31 October 2015

Chapter 21 - Happy Halloween from Crimson Peak

Happy Halloween everyone.

To celebrate I'm bending the rules of the blog a little bit to talk about a film that while set in the Victorian period doesn't feature any real life personalities or art but is still an excellent example of the tropes of the Gothic; Crimosn Peak.

As I mentioned in my post about Hellboy 2Guillermo del Toro is my favourite director and this, his ninth feature, is one of his best films. There may be some light spoliers in this review but I will try to keep them as vague as possible. 

The story concerns Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), a young American writer who falls in love with Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleson), an English baronet who is seeking the investment of her industrialist father. After her father is murdered, Edith moves with Thomas, and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) to Allerdale Hall, also known as Crimson Peak, the Sharpe's ancestral home in Cumbria, England. But the house is haunted and Edith has to investigate exactly what has happened there, 

Photo from playbuzz
To call this a ghost story is a misnomer though. It is not a Gothic Horror story but a Gothic Romance that harks back to the original Gothic traditions of  the Romantic and Victorian periods. The ghosts exist to aide Edith in her investigations not serve as menace. It draws on the works of writers like Ann RadcliffeSheridan Le Fanu, Henry James & Bram Stoker (the interest in new technology contrasting with old world mysteries reminds me a lot of Dracula) along with echos of Bluebeard and creates a story that would have not been out of place in 19th Century fiction. 

The acting is excellent. Jessica Chastain and  Mia Wasikowska in particular shine as the two female leads (It is a very feminine movie, suiting the Gothic traditions  it is drawing upon.)  Tom Hiddleson, one of my favourite actors, also impresses in his role as Thomas. 

Photo from digital trends
The costumes and sets are beautiful, It being a del Toro film means that a lot of care and attention has gone into everything from the elegance of the dresses worn by the ladies in the parties in America to the house itself which has to be one of the most amazing sets you will ever see in film.  The ghosts are for the most part practical effects rather than computer generated. As someone who grew up in the period before CGI, I appreciate this. 

del Toro on set with Jessica Chastain (photo from Los Angeles Magazine)

All in all this is an easy film to recommend and sits just behind Pan's Labyrinth as my favourite of the directors work. 

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