A Story with Ghosts in It

Guillermo del Toro’s latest film Crimson Peak has picked up a lot of hype as a horror movie. But what is Chrisom Peak exactly? And how does it stack up to his other works.

Edith was visited by the ghost of her mother as a child and it warned her from Crimson Peak. But that cryptic message becomes less of a concern as she grew into adulthood.  Edith must entertain the advances of her childhood friend Dr. Alana McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) and exotic stranger (Tom Hiddleston) with a bad reputation while being shunned as a female author.  After her father dies, she marries Thomas Sharpe despite his bad reputation. They join his sitter in their decrepitated manor England. Once here, the ghosts come back to warn of betrayal and murder.

crimson-peak-posterThe problem with Crimson Peak is that it’s not scary. I had read that it was supposed to be scary and was highly disappointed. There was some violence and gore but no scares. My friend had to point out that it was more Gothic horror than a traditional horror movie, and I have tried to see it in that light. While it helped my perspective of the story, it did not really help with my enjoyment of the film. Del Toro is a fanboy and all his best work emulates his influences and likes but most add his own touch and makes it his. This is a love song to Gothic horror stories but adds very little new ideas other than some horrific violence.  The movie is basically “The Woman in Black” combined with “The House of Yes.” Taking ideas, atmospheres, and stories from a plethora of sources (Poe, Bronte just to name a few) they are hodgepodged together with little subtlety. The writing treats us like children showing us that they are telling a version of Jane Eyre with Mary Shelley undertones. We have to guess nothing that happens as we know how these stories play out. It reminds you in exposition that it is a romance and it is a story with ghosts in it (seemingly to fight off the mislead advertising for the film). This is insulting to the viewers and lacks the nuance of so many of Del Toro’s past works.

Jessica Chastain steals the movie and too much time is spent on Mia Wasikowska’s naive and inspecting lead character that sees specters. It is Chastain that moves the movie forward, the one that gets to play a smart and fierce woman.  But as her character’s persona denigrates, her performance crescendos. The other actors can’t keep up with her Hiddleston and Hunnam are all passable but not overly inspiring. There characters just seem to be fuel for Chastain’s playground There is only one other character that stands out so some much.crimson-peak-jessica-chastain-hiddelston-mia-wasikowska-00063r

Luckily, like most of this genre, the house becomes a character in itself and all the visuals are stunning. The house looks like other you have seen before but the deterioration and the clay that leaks from the walls and floors like blood are eerily creepy. It is the clay that leads to any kind of f horror turning everything a bloody red. The red snow is insanely creepy and is more than just a metaphor for the horrors taking place inside the house. Alas, not everything is treated with such smart double dimensions.

Unfortunately, adverting by the studio cannot contribute to the issues with the film.  Many reading this will say I am wrong, that it perfectly emulates all the classics. This is also its down fall. We del Toro fans hunger for his next project, to see how he puts himself into things that we love how he brings it into our world. But this movie didn’t do that. So the literature fan in me will subside so the nerd girl within me can start pining for Pacific Rim 2.

Our Vampires, Our Selves

ONLY-LOVERS-LEFT-ALIVEVampires are windows to our souls. The fascination with the creatures of the night has always been ingrained in human history and psychology. The stories started with our lack of medical knowledge and what happens to our bodies after we die. Many a poor body was mutilated for fears that they were actually vampires. But as medical knowledge prevailed, we stopped putting stakes in hearts or bricks in mouth to keep the body from rising. Instead, they became an existential study of our selves. Human are drawn to these supernatural tales as a way to come to grips with their own mortality. We have romanticized them right into pop culture.

Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lover Left Alive is a perfect example of using the supernatural to reflect the fears of the natural. The story follows Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), a husband and wife who truly love each other after centuries together. Eve returns home to despondent and suicidal Adam. He is tired of the world and how the humans treat it. His life is only made more complicated when Eve’s “sister” visits them.

The movie is beautiful allegory for drugs and rock and roll. These vampires are almost hippy like with their vintage music and soul charging highs. A search for the purest source is like that of a true drug aficionado—not just some crack whore. It’s the typical drug story just trapped with vampire edges and dark humor. Chaos and death reign in this world even though Eve and Adam only want to spend their time enjoying the world and each other. But like all drug tales, the source dries up and Adam must come face to face with an inevitable death.

The casting is superb. Hiddleston is so much more than the impish Loki of the Marvel universe. H nails the suicidal rocker on the head giving more depth to a character that could be one sided. His chemistry with Swinton is tight, and Swinton herself is, as always, superb. Mia Wasikowska plays the younger and fickle sister infusing chaos perfectly into the couple’s tiny world. And  Anton Yelchin evokes his best Matthew Gray Gubler as Adam’s minion who is a needed source of comic relief.only-lovers-left-alive-jim-jarmusch-05

The only issue with the movie is that Jarmusch wears his symbolism on his sleeve. He forces the use of spinning imagery upon the viewer wasting an endless amount of time with either dancers or spinning records. These sequencing using music are used to drive the story, but it really just slows it down. By the time you get to the end of the movie and a music sequence that was vital to the story, the viewer has lost interest and ready to move on.

Despite of these, Only Lovers Left Alive is a captivating and complex tale mirrors our human emotions in the faces of vampires. If they can find both self-love and romantic love why can’t we? But at what prices do we pay for our lives when we are just seeking out our next high?