Crimson Peak

October 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”)
Written by: Guillermo del Toro (“Pacific Rim”) and Matthew Robbins (“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”)

In the opening scene of director Guillermo del Toro’s new film “Crimson Peak,” a ghost of the mother of our main character gives the warning: “Beware of Crimson Peak.” With a dull story, bland horror and clunky imagery, I couldn’t agree more, unscary ghost-lady.

After a young woman named Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is swept off her feet by visiting a Englishman named Thomas (Tom Hiddleston), she decides to follow him to his new home after facing a family tragedy. Accompanied by his mysterious sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), Thomas and Edith arrive and settle into Thomas’ broken down albeit beautiful home. As she spends more time there, however, Edith begins to notice strange things around the house and becomes haunted by ghosts. When she realizes things may not be what they seem, Edith attempts to navigate the truth about what is really happening at Crimson Peak.

Any horror elements, mostly taking place in the form of ghosts, feel like a complete afterthought. None of it is that frightening, but rather a polite haunting that is shoehorned in to spice up a dull romantic story. The romance feels decidedly passionless, as those plotlines are not given nearly enough time to breathe or develop. After a few meetings and some lustful looks, the audience is led to believe that Thomas and Edith are deeply in love, which never feels like the case.

While some plot points and a general sense of unease are pretty obvious early on, the film plays those plot points close to the vest, and takes forever to reveal (barely) what is actually going on. When the film reaches enters it’s Third Act and motives and answers are finally revealed, the movie has taken far too long to get to the point and there’s an air of “Who cares?” that permeates the exposition.

There’s no question the film’s gothic aesthetics are pretty to look at, but once you get past the sheen, there’s nothing worthwhile there. When you throw in some ham-fisted usage of the color red for blood imagery, a lame script of clichéd dialogue, and far too much brooding (I’m looking at you, Chastain), you get a film that lacks in nearly every department. Though the genre of the film may be up for debate, the fact remains that the romantic elements aren’t alluring enough and the horror elements are not chilling enough leaving “Crimson Peak” as a film with much to be desired.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

August 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison
Written by: Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), Matthew Robbins (“Mimic”)
Directed by: Troy Nixey (debut)

Although children are curious by nature, there are certain things that should frighten even the most precocious of kids. In “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” emotionally-unstable youngster Sally Hirst (Bailee Madison) hears strange and eerie whispering voices calling her name from the vents in her house. The voices beg for escape and invite her to play. Her reaction is to do all she can to let them out, rather than cower in fear. This questionable logic is the first in a series of distracting choices that riddle a horror film that lacks scares and leaves audiences muttering to themselves about the ridiculousness of it all.

Written and produced by well-established director Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), “Dark” follows Sally who has relocated from her mother’s house to a house being renovated by her father Alex (Guy Pearce) and his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes). While exploring a hidden basement, Sally finds a furnace occupied by tiny goblin-like creatures that steal sharp objects to attack their victims. They also crave children’s teeth and are sensitive to light. When the lights go out, these menacing and evil monsters whisper and torment Sally, who tries to convince her reluctant father their lives are in danger if they stay in the house.

Looking a little young for the age of the character she is playing, Bailee Madison feels like a slight miscast. Consistent with many of her films in her short-lived career, Madison’s ability to cry on cue is once again exploited. While she is obviously very good at letting the tears flow, there are always far too many scenes of her sobbing. With Madison being the main focus of the film, Holmes and Pearce both turn unmemorable supporting performances as the acceptance-craving Kim and the oblivious Alex.

Ranging from smaller implausible feats such as Sally being able to unscrew a bolt that has been sealed for perhaps hundreds of years to logical leaps that are out of place even in a horror film, “Dark” is full of moments that will leave audiences incredulous. The most annoying occurrence throughout the movie is how nobody in peril can seem to remember to flip a light switch to make the creatures scamper. As they thrash and scream, trying to fend off the fun-size miscreants, the lights only come on when someone barges down a locked door.

At one point in the film, Alex breaks down and admits he has no idea what to do. His mental crisis doesn’t come until after someone in the house is attacked and badly injured, his daughter is mentally and physically tormented, and his girlfriend slowly starts to believe Sally is telling the truth. Maybe leaving the house would be a good starting point?

While debut director Troy Nixey utilizes a few easy jump scares, a true sense of terror and dread is sorely missing. Even worse, the filmmakers strive for an entirely serious tone, which actually results in a few scenes intended to strike horror being ripe for unintentional laughter. Ultimately, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” falls victim to too many horror movie clichés. While much of the movie takes place in the dark, it is no excuse for characters to miss the solutions that are right in front of their faces.