Crimson Peak (Universal, 10.16) is a madhouse, all right. Operatic, fevered — Guillermo del Toro‘s most carefully designed movie from a style and image perspective, and it is a style, make no mistake, that you either get into or you don’t. It’s a swan dive into the aortic valve. “Please don’t wear red tonight…for red is the color of the mush in the mud and the vats in the cellar, and what’s more it’s true…yes, it is.” Even the spinning Universal globe is blood red. O madness…consume me! Crunch my bones, devour my flesh, swallow me whole and then belch, loudly. Actually, no, wait…I need to dial this back.
Call it an uber-operatic exercise in a genre that’s been tuned two or three notches above reality and plays out just like that — sort of a crazy Jacobean drama. This is another ghost/Mama movie in a sense, a murder-and-crazy-maim movie, a greed movie, a gothic-production-design thing, a cold spirit-realm supreme, a red-gloop movie, a virus of evil movie, a blood-soaked nightmare, a delirious frenzy movie, a stab-stab-stab movie (as well as a stab-stab-stab-and-you’re-not-just-alive-but-able-to-walk-away movie).
It’s also a Notorious homage. Mia Wasikowska is a not-quite-as-desirable Ingrid Bergman, Charlie Hunnam is Cary Grant, Tom Hiddleston is Claude Rains and Jessica Chastain is Mama Sebastian.
I was think it should be called In The Mouth of Madness…too bad that title was taken by John Carpenter 21 years ago.
An eccentric lady of passion and antidepressants whom I saw it with told me it changed her molecularly and forbade me to criticize it. Two women she met in the bathroom were creaming over it also. Strange as this may sound, Crimson Peak is a kind of woman’s film. HE’s Svetlana Cvetko, who saw it with me last August, is taking a couple of girlfriends to see it again, she says.
I found it a little over-plotted and over-emphasized and basically not the kind of subtle that I prefer. I realize that’s the point — it’s a “surrender your need to control and sink into the gloop and the howling madness” movie — but I’m simply more of a fan of the delicacy of Mama and The Orphanage and The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth and Chronos.
It’s just not my type of thing except, of course, for the exquisite, genius-level production design and magnificent historical detail and superb cinematography and the highly literate script and the clarity with which everything unfolds.
Either you’re into (or at least open to) this kind of crazy-mama shit or you’re not.
Mr. Del Toro has no equal in the making of this kind of exacting gothic fever dream. He is the champion of this realm. I really am taking my hat off and bowing down. This is the work of a true maestro. The snow gently falling in a pile in the foyer made me think of rain gently falling through the circular opening in the Pantheon in Rome.
I realize that the movie was explaining over and over that sanity and subtlety were impossible given the history of this family and this crazy house, but I wanted to be tapped on the shoulder and allowed to travel in the realm of my imagination and what might be around the corner. I got sick of the knives and the gush and the cleavers. Red-demon ghosts with black razor fingers in the bathtub don’t do it for me the way, say, that statuesque blonde in the bathtub did it for me in The Shining or the way that door bent inward when the ghost was pressing against it in Robert Wise‘s The Haunting.
Peak contains a hot sex scene, by the way, between Hiddleston and Wasikowska…a Victorian sex scene for the ages. It’s Del Toro’s second sex scene (first one was in Devil’s Backbone) but the first one in which he goes for passion and erotic abandon.