When the director of The Devil’s Back Bone and Pan’s Labyrinth announces that he is going to be releasing another tale of the macabre, I was ready to buy my ticket. I consider Guillermo del Toro to be the new Alfred Hitchcock. Their films are very different, as are their styles, but much like Hitchcock, del Toro puts his everything into a film. He turns the film over and over again and makes sure that everything on screen is there in service of the story. His most recent release, Crimson Peak, is no exception.
Here is the film’s synopsis from IMDB: “In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author, Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is torn between love for her childhood friend, Alan (Charlie Hunnam) and the temptation of a mysterious outsider, Thomas (Tom Hiddleston). Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers”. Not 100% accurate as it fails to mention that Thomas has a sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), who may not be all that she claims to be. Take that with Edith seeing ghosts and we have a creepy tale. I found the film to be wonderful. It was the proper mix of mystery and scares, without being a gore fest of frights. If you have ever seen del Toro’s The Devil’s Back Bone or Mama, which he produced, you know he handles horror in the classic way.
The film arrives today on Blu-ray, DVD, and HD Digital from Universal Studios. I have, in fact, watched the film twice and there is one thing that I cannot get over, just how vanilla the leads are. Now I should state which two leads I am talking about and exactly what I mean by “vanilla”. Vanilla is a term I have heard used to describe an actor or actress that makes you believe that anyone, including yourself, can be that character. The quintessential vanilla actor may be Keanu Reeves. He or she may not bring a lot to a role, but they enable the audience to insert themselves to their position within the confines of the story.
In Crimson Peak this is clearly Mia Wasikowska and Charlie Hunnam. Wasikowska’s plays the dreamer who cares not about love in her writing, yet falls for the wily charms of Hiddleston’s Thomas. For many female members of the audience, the casting of Tom Hiddleston makes this easy for the ladies to identify with. He is mysterious, yet strangely sympathetic as he tries to save what is left of his family’s estate. Hunnam’s Doctor Alan McMichael is the clearly the right choice for Wasikowska’s writer. She, however, can’t see the devotion he has for her. What guy hasn’t loved a woman who is with someone that is completely wrong for her? Thankfully, del Toro and Matthew Robbins’ screenplay steers away from much of the typical character trappings a story like this can have. In fact, if it were not for Tom Hiddleston’s performance as the sympathetic/ mysterious stranger, the film would lose a lot of its punch. Add to the mix, Chastain’s ability to teeter on the edge between sophistication and bat-shit crazy, and Crimson Peak becomes a new, modern classic.
For some films like The Matrix, a vanilla actor works beautifully. Who doesn’t want to be “the one”? Here, in Crimson Peak, del Toro throws the perfect blend of hot Hiddleston syrup and rainbow Chasten sprinkles that you need vanilla at the center to balance out the crazy flavors he is throwing at the audience. For me, it just lingers that maybe starting with Peanut Butter Ice-cream and a few scoops of Rocky Road may have delivered an even finer picture. Vanilla is great, in small doses. Perhaps Crimson Peak is just what we need when so many horror sundaes have too many flavors and always fail to get it right.
Blu-ray and DVD Releases for February 9th, 2016
Action/ Adventure/ Mystery
Passage, The (1979)
Sheba, Baby (1975)
Lord Marksman & Vanadis: The Complete Series
Pokémon: The Movies 1-3 Steelbook Blu-ray Collection
Tokyo Ghoul: Season 1
The Emigrants / The New Land
A Lizard In A Women’s Skin (1971)
Freaks of Nature
Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection
Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection
Leftovers, The: Season 2