I always approach Guillermo Del Toro’s movies with some hesitation. In my opinion he’s made two absolutely terrific movies in The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, but he’s also made mediocre fare like Mimic and Hellboy, and flat out garbage like Pacific Rim and Hellboy 2. The trailers for Crimson Peak didn’t exactly set my heart fluttering either. A lot of greenscreen CGI work in a haunted house movie is an almost guarantee of bullshit, and then there’s Tom Hiddleston (Only Lovers Left Alive, High Rise).
So, we watched Crimson Peak last night, and unfortunately I can’t rave about it one way or the other. It doesn’t stink, but neither is it very good either; it just kind of exists as a way to eat up a couple hours of your life. Generally speaking, I love ghost stories, and I love haunted house stories, but Crimson Peak fails to deliver on either of these. Not only that, about 15 minutes in I correctly predicted what the story was about, and almost exactly how it would end, and I’m probably not the only one. What the movie gets right is the time period. Accurate or not, I liked the Victorian setting. I’m a fan of movies set in that era. That’s pretty much all the movie has going for it. The storyline is moderately interesting, but there is some poor writing there, and it never feels like it has any weight.
Where the movie fails badly is in being a ghost story. The ghosts have almost no bearing on the main plot, and their appearances are terrible from a visual point of view (overpriced CGI makes ghosts less scary), and they’re also kind of stupid. If a ghost knows enough about a terrible event in the future and wants to warn someone, why be so fucking vague about it? Why warn the protagonist about Crimson Peak without saying why? Why not warn against Hiddleston’s character instead?
And about Hiddleston. I don’t get the fangirl squee about this guy. I mean, he’s an okay actor, but that’s about it. In this movie he doesn’t do anything noteworthy whatsoever. Ultimately, nowhere near a landmark in either Del Toro’s repertoire, or the genre, and difficult to recommend.
© Andrew Hope, 2017
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