Saturday, October 17, 2015

Crimson Peak

Bookish, practical Edith wants nothing to do with high society or frivolous things like dances. She aspires to be a fiction writer, but runs into trouble because the stereotypes about women writers. Enter Sir Thomas Sharpe, desperate for money to fund his new invention to kick start his business. Edith mocks him for his title before even meeting him, but is immediately entranced by him when she does. Her father doesn't approve of the match at all and even goes so far as to bribe Thomas to leave and break his daughter's heart. After the tragic, unsolved murder of her father, Edith seeks solace with Thomas and they are quickly married. They return to Allerdale Hall in England, Thomas and his sister Lucille's home that has fallen into extreme disrepair. Edith is obviously out of place there, but she starts to see apparitions and clues that seem to point to some deep, dark secret about her new husband, his sister, and their past.

Crimson Peak is a lush Gothic tale with a bit of a twist. The film has most of what you'd expect of a stereotypical Gothic tale: a young lady held prisoner, a decrepit house full of secrets, a mysterious young aristocrat, his clingy sister, and a ghost. Edith is a huge nerd, which makes her awesome and part of why I rooted for her the whole film. She's an introvert who prefers quiet activities like reading or working on her novel. Despite hating him before knowing him personally, Thomas Sharpe utterly charms her with his passion and creativity. They marry in a whirlwind of love and grief for her mysteriously murdered father. Once they get to Allerdale Hall, it's clear that something is awry. Although Edith makes some pretty hugely stupid decisions, I was on her side throughout the movie. Some horrible decisions include: stealing Lucille's keys right in front of her, taking incriminating evidence back to her room, not covering her tracks when snooping around, and not running screaming right when she got there. Her mother's ghost appears to her multiple times to deter her, but Edith doesn't understand the message until it's too late.

Allerdale Hall is a once beautiful mansion that is now derelict and fallen into extreme disrepair. When you think old mansion, you probably think of a cobwebby mess, but this one takes that further than I've ever seen with someone still living in it. The roof has a giant hole in it right above the entry way. Leaves or snow settle on the floor depending on the weather. The walls are covered in giant moths and the incredibly creepy clown figures Thomas carved are everywhere you look. On top of all this, the house also sits atop red clay mine and it sinks into the clay a little more each year. Red clay seeps into the walls as mud, into the pipes, and through the snow around the property. Everything looks bathed in blood. On the other hand, parts of the mansion are still luxurious and gorgeous. The architecture is simply mind blowing. The shapes tend to have arches with spikes lining them. Everything has hard edges, spikes, and very little natural light. The enormous house is made to feel claustrophobic, like the walls are closing in around you. The mansion is one of my favorite settings for any film because of it's odd mixture of luxury and squalor. The mansion's state and dual nature is symbolic for Thomas and Lucille, their relationship, and their mental well being along with their cache of secrets. Tom Hiddleston is utterly charming as Thomas, but it's amazing to see him show what I see as his real character when he purposefully humiliates Edith in front of everyone in order to secure money from her father. He shows his true motives and attitude towards her with venom. Jessica Chastain looks a bit odd as a brunette mostly because of the severe, old fashioned dress and hair styles, but she's perfectly clingy, intense, and manipulative as Lucille. She shows her true self and looks much more natural near the climax of the film in a slightly revealing nightdress and her hair down.

Crimson Peak is a film that's a feast for the eyes. The costumes are amazingly detailed and gorgeous. The ghosts are also expertly designed to be frightening and fascinating at the same time. They look like they have tendrils of smoke constantly rolling off of them. Their creation is a delightful amalgamation of practical effects, actors (Doug Jones of course), and CGI.  Allerdale Hall is the perfect mix of luxury and dilapidation with a healthy dose of red everywhere from the clay. The music throughout is excellent as well. Piano music plays throughout because Lucille is an accomplished pianist. The score also has a dual nature. The main themes are lush and sweeping melodies with a full orchestra, but the eerie parts are accompanied by a tense theme with a repeated very high single piano note. I love how the themes flow to all parts of the narrative to make a complete artwork. I enjoyed it immensely and I urge you to catch it in the theaters before it's gone.

My rating: 9/10 fishmuffins

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