Friday

on Crimson Peak for those who have watched it.

If you haven't watched it, what ever I say below, I think it's worth a watch. I liked it.

If you have, well...ell, Crimson Peak is a film built almost entirely out of references. It's Rebecca, Macbeth, Usher, Dracula, woman in black, Amnesia the Dark Descent (or just shares influences, I doubt gdt has played that), and every other gothic thing you can put into spot (makes me wonder what I missed). The main character's surname 'Cushing' tells you all you need to know; if you don't know why that's significant, maybe you're not going to understand this film beyond the surface level.

It does this to a point that begins to feel a bit Alan Moore; the point where one character finishes one sentence with 'the horror', and starts the next with the same phrase, feels like the 'showing your work gone mad'ness of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

There's another plot area that really felt Moorish to me too; the protagnist Edith is an author and near the start spells out the point of the film. 'Its not a Ghost Story', she says 'it's a story with ghosts in it. The ghosts are just metaphors for the past'.

Indeed, like any good GDT film (i.e. not Pacfic Rim), as grusome as the ghosts are, it is the people who are the monsters. Edith's comment is not just a snarky 'ooh i'm so clever' one-liner, but a massive shovel in the face telling you THIS IS FICTION, A METAPHOR, IT HAS A DEEPER MEANING IF YOU LOOK FOR IT.

There isn't much discussion of the nature of her book in the film, apart from one pivotal dialogue, where she tells Tom that she doesn't control her characters - they make their own minds up. This transforms him into a character who has free will, and from this point on he is able to make his own decisions, steering the final act of the film. It is after this final act that we see the cover of the book 'Crimson Peak by Edith Sharpe', which makes you wonder how much authorship our protaganist has had all along. Remember she was writing a story with ghosts in, and was forced to introduce a love plot to pelase the publisher - well how forced does the romance feel in the film?

There's loads of symbolism - the shock of industrialiastion (also a theme of Dracula) in the form of type writers, wax cylinders, and digging machines, meant to liberate us but rendering us lifeless. The butterflies every where - dying or pinned or being eaten alive (the most grusome moment, I thought) or merely on wall-paper. The 'nobility as parasite' idea, again introduced right at the start for obviousness, is woven through the film in a surprisingly literal way.

The first act, in New York State, i think is my favourite. It's pretty much a straight period piece with some interesting characters and bits of conversation - if there's one thing I felt this film could do more of, it's dialogue. Scenes are often too short and economical.

I didn't like the final act where it was all stabby - it didn't move me. And I didn't like the shocks that were entirely for the benefit of the audience - The Woman in Black did this too and it feels too much like a non-interactive roller coaster ride. Compared to the other great meta-horror film Cabin in the Woods, it pales. That film is funny, and cleverly reference heavy, and has a lot to say about horror, to the point of being an essay or even manifesto. Crimson Peak is certainly reference heavy, but without humour, and I'm not sure to what extent. It's given me a lot to think about, but I haven't yet figured out if GDT is trying to say anything with the film. I don't know if he's trying to push horror forward. And it failed the 'scared going to bed' test...

Case in point: Edith hears something from the bath. we see a ghost, but she does not. The ghost, a rotting near-skeleton, comes right up to her whilst her back is turned, then vanishes when she turns around. Just at that point, her dog runs back up to her - and from the empty darkness, its ball is rolled back to it. The second part is the unsettling, not going to sleep tonight bit, but it's undermined by the gorey OTT prelude.

And maybe I've seen too many GDT DVD extras, but when the first ghost turns up I thought 'ooh look it's Doug Jones'. And that's good because I love Doug Jones, but also, when your monsters always seem to have the same figure and posture, maybe you should branch out more. Or is it a reference to GDT's earlier films?

(That reminds me, I don't think I've seen Andy Serkis play a human for ages, and that's a shame because he's great as Hannet and Dury)

Still, I liked it, and I'm intrigued enough to come back to it later to see if there's anything I missed. I suppose like a Half man half Biscuit song, if I watch it in five years time maybe I'll get more out of it.

It's a frankenstein film, almost the cinematic equivalent of Paul's Boutique, that wears it's sewn-together stitch marks so blatently that it 's a confident sign that there is more depth to be found.
It's certainly a rich enough film to provoke these midnight ramblings.
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