Creepy, Creaky Old Houses Week: Crimson Peak

THEN I knew that Del Toro had in fact been reading my diary because GOD ALMIGHTY– a well-dressed, incredibly dapper gent who turns up out of nowhere, has intelligent input on her writing, and exudes manners and charm?

October is Horror Movie month, where we let down our hair and celebrate all things macabre and scary! Not that we don’t during the rest of the year, but still… HORROR MOVIES! People who don’t like horror are encouraged to check back November 1st for less bloody and/or disturbing films. For everyone else, let’s put on our galoshes and WADE INTO THE MIRE!

Creepy, Creaky Old Houses Week is a gear-switch from Hell Week; in Hell Week we donned our raincoats and galoshes to wade into the Hellraiser movies– bloody, fleshy, hooky, painy, S&My wonders that they are. This week is all about subtle, understated horror, with very little blood, highbrow content, and plenty of atmospherics. So put on your Edwardian nightclothes and some hard-soled shoes– we’re creeping slowly up staircases while clutching unreliable lighting sources this week!

Today’s entry is Crimson Peak, which just opened last week! Since it’s still in theaters today’s entry will contain NO SPOILERS.

The colors! The colors!
The colors! The colors!

If I had to describe Crimson Peak in a single long word without taking a breath, it would be RomancySwoonyBloodySteampunkySexyCostumeyVictorianyHiddlestonsassy. There, you’re all caught up! I leave it up to you if that last one is ‘Hiddleston sassy’ or ‘Hiddlestons assy’ because both are apt.

Ripped from the sweat-stained pages of my secret smut diary!
Ripped from the sweat-stained pages of my secret smut diary!

I was SO. EXCITED. when the trailer came out almost a year ago. Maybe my expectations were overbuilt or something, because although there were many, MANY things I loved about Crimson Peak, I did feel myself a bit let down. I just wasn’t feeling it… I cried big ugly sobs during so many of Guillermo Del Toro’s other films– even Hellboy 2!– but for some reason the emotional center of this film never gelled for me.

Without a doubt, the film:

  • Is composed of a beautifully twisted world of extremes: the sun-drenched golds of Buffalo and the slate-sky’d, wintry moors surrounding Allerdale Hall define the light spectrum of the film
  • Contained some of the most magnificent sets and costumes, especially the aforementioned Allerdale in all its decrepit, strangely sentient glory
  • Is atmospheric almost to a fault
  • Was advertised as brain-melting horror but never quite got inside my head– the ghosts were grotesque, but ultimately quite sad
  • Held fascinating characters, an engaging setup, and plenty of promise
  • Reminded me of Poe’s The Fall of The House of Usher, and I wondered why I haven’t seen that mentioned in reviews.

Edith Cushing is a young, well-to-do lady not content to lay around and spend her father’s hard-earned money; she’s got a dream. She’s a writer, so right away my interest was peaked (HA! yes we are still doing bad puns). Literally stained with ink, she waits, with her heart in her throat, while an editor boredly pages through her work. He dismisses it and tells her that since she’s a woman, she ought to write romances instead of ghost stories. She astutely points out that it’s not a ghost story, but a story with a ghost in it, which all but sets up the film for us. Undaunted by the rejection, Edith resolves to learn to type so that her feminine handwriting won’t give away her gender to the next editor.

"Who's that idjit dancing with Edith?" I LOVE JIM BEAVER SO MUCH EVER SINCE DEADWOOD!!
“Who’s that idjit dancing with Edith?” I LOVE JIM BEAVER SO MUCH EVER SINCE DEADWOOD!!

Her industrialist father Carter, played by Jim Beaver, is supportive of her dream and so she practices her typing at his firm’s typewriter, which is at the front desk of the firm. It is there she meets Sir Thomas Sharpe, baronet whose come to town to drum up financial support in a machine he’s designed. Believe me when I say his intro is magic; with a spring in his step and tophat on his head, he saunters along a ray of sunshine, radiating confidence and integrity. He notices her story and picks it up, fascinated, and THEN I knew that Del Toro had in fact been reading my diary because GOD ALMIGHTY– a well-dressed, incredibly dapper gent who turns up out of nowhere, has intelligent input on her writing, and exudes manners and charm?

I'd faint if I weren't so busy swooning
I’d faint if I weren’t so busy swooning… oh, what the hell. *thump*

Although she’s sort of attached to ultra all-American Dr. Alan McMichaels (Charlie Hunnam) she is quickly swept off her feet by the dashing Sir Sharpe when he literally waltzes her around the room. But Sharpe has a secret that Carter hires Holly (Burn Gorman, who is in EVERYTHING, I say! EVERYTHING!) to ferret out. A murder, a funeral, and a marriage follow, in that order.

Although the characterizations start out strong, they start to fall apart as the movie loses its footing. For example: Edith is from BUFFALO, a town famous for encountering ridiculously harsh winters. And yet later in the film when shit has Gotten Real, she is only too ready to run out into the snow in her bedclothes to escape the house. I found that hard to swallow, and it’s one of the main reasons I don’t get why people are calling her such a great character. The situation wasn’t so dire that she had to escape right away, and she would know full well that such a move would get her frozen faster than if she asked her sister-in-law Lucille for a hug.

My hair caught fire from just looking at this picture
My hair caught fire from just looking at this picture

Another dumb nit I must pick – there is a huge hole in Allerdale Hall’s roof, through which leaves tumble gently in a continual cascade. And yet– there are no trees around the house!

File 404: Foliage Not Found
File 404 Error: Foliage Not Found

I know it’s a stupid thing to focus on in this otherwise beautiful and haunting film, but I can’t help it. I pick because I care!

I won’t tell you Crimson Peak isn’t good – it’s great and it does a lot of things right. For one thing, it turns the gothic romance genre on its head in a lot of ways, even as it celebrates them. Thomas is dashing and mysterious, but he’s also an inventor who’s trying to rebuild his family’s lost fortune, and his endearing sweetness sets him apart from the usual brooding hunks you find in these films. Allerdale Hall is perfectly vast, creeply and creaky, but it’s also falling apart and slowly sinking into the red clay upon which it’s built. A perfectly cast Jessica Chastain appears as Lucille, an aristocratic iceberg who must do most of the housework herself since the Sharpe fortune is long gone.

The critics are raving about it, it’s already got a built-in fandom, and I will definitely add it to my Del Toro collection when it’s out on blu-ray.

Thanks for reading this installment of Creepy Creaky week! Sorry there are only two entries, I have some personal business going on that precludes me from blogging. Next week’s theme will be Halloween And the Kitchen Sink, in which we explore horror movies that threw everything Halloweenish at the viewer, including the kitchen sink!

Have a great week!

Author: jennnanigans

Orlando-area writerly person.

3 thoughts on “Creepy, Creaky Old Houses Week: Crimson Peak”

  1. I went to the cinema yesterday for something to do but I really enjoyed the movie and walked home thinking I could see a ghost in the corner of my eye I loved the part were Edith discovers the truth and when the ghost shows her *spoiler* something about Thomas Sharpe

    1. That’s lovely! I love when horror movies stay with you like that, it’s so rare these days. Thanks for commenting! 🙂

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