Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak. This was the opener at Ebertfest when I went a couple months ago. I loved it the first time and it was even better with an enthusiastic crowd in an old theater. Felt like an event. The anticipation helps a lot, and having the director on hand to talk about his movie does, too. One of my favorite lines from Guillermo Del Toro’s awesome Q&A that night:

I don’t make eye candy. I make eye protein.

He shared background on the influences, comparisons and similarities to Jane Eyre and Frankenstein, which have a similar sense of loss and abandonment, and to a few Hitchcock movies – Rebecca, Suspicion, Notorious – as more recent gothic romances where love ends in conflagration. In this one the heroine’s experience of love goes hand-in-hand with the experience of death.

He also talked a lot about the unity of construction through the whole thing. How the story is told in architecture (different architectural styles through the house and each floor, the differing levels of moral order and corruption), in costume (Chastain’s blue dress borrows architectural elements from the house; another draws influence from her association with moth vs. Wasikowska’s butterfly; she’s the only person to wear red, etc.), and in sets (oversized chairs when our heroine takes ill).

Aside from the movie itself, I also enjoyed hearing Del Toro talk about two approaches to evaluating a movie. One, as a viewer, does it do its job? Like, did you feel like you wasted your time? And another way is to approach it as a piece of art – taking into account the context, influences, intentions – did it meet its goals?


Stoker. When it comes to character and plot stuff, this didn’t seem very good. I got over the (I’m assuming intentionally) stilted dialogue. The problem for me was that I didn’t care what the truth was. I don’t need to like any characters, but I need to have a reaction to whatever the story reveals and develops. It kinda lands with a thud.

I wonder again how I would have liked the movie if the story were told linearly, instead of turning to distant flashbacks that cut into the movie after 80 minutes. There’s a distinct fun to the style of suspense where instead of feeling in the dark and curious, you’re in the loop, but powerless. It’s “Uh oh! I don’t know what’s going to happen!” vs. “I have a pretty idea what’s about to happen, but alas I am powerless to help anyone involved! Don’t go down that hallway! No seriously don’t open that door!”. It’s the shouting-at-the-screen instinct. When they withhold explanations for a long time and keep you out of the loop until the flashbacks, you end up as more of a spectator, less complicit.

So I have those complaints. But–and this is a big but if you like moving pictures for other more mechanical reasons–this movie was pretty engaging for its photography and editing and sound. I love how Park moves the camera around, all the blocking and pivots. Such a clever momentum with the timing. There’s a delightful climactic scene with parallel cuts between three locations. I had more or less the same reaction to Park’s movie Oldboy.