So I’m late to the game on critiquing this film. I was just able to obtain a copy and sit through the entire two hours and give it an honest viewing. It matters to me to not write a review or opinion on a work without seeing it first. In some cases, when I think someone who worked on it is deplorable (not their performance but personally), I will make my opinion known that I won’t throw down anything on seeing it, not even besmirch my Netflix with streaming it.
Crimson Peak (2015) was directed by my favorite director, Guillermo del Toro, and stars one of my favorite actors, Tom Hiddleston. Hiddleston is surrounded by a kick ass cast, and they each perform admirably. The sets are lavish. The tone is just right. The score appropriate. The costumes were great (except that crazy puffy sleeve thing Wasikowska wears about the last half of the film). In truth, the film delightfully reminds me of the old Hammer Films of which I watched growing up. There is nothing that utterly disappoints in this film. Yet, it still fell flat with most viewers. It has less than a 7 rating on IMDB. It received a 70% from Rotten Tomatoes.
There were such high hopes for this film. I was really excited to see it, but was confused and let down to find out some things were amiss.
To be certain you understand, it is a paranormal thriller. Yes, it breaches the walls of horror for some devices, but it is not a horror film. It is a thriller, first and foremost. That is where, I think, they initially went wrong. How so? Well, they labelled Crimson Peak a fantasy, drama and horror…yikes! How did they figure that was right? So wrong! How do I know? When you mislabel something’s genre(s), you set yourself up for the wrong sort of expectations. Your audience arrives expecting things and if you don’t deliver, or are weak on the delivery, they will be disappointed. Audiences were disappointed by the lack of all those things which make either fantasy, drama or horror. It was light on all of these. If they had called it a historical paranormal thriller, audiences would have been well pleased…
I realized while watching Crimson Peak, exactly what is wrong with the film itself, not just it’s marketing. The writing felt trite, if not amateurish in the execution of the story. The exact issue with the story is something I have spoken against many times: over sharing!
Someone once critiqued OP-DEC telling me that I should have given more information to the reader about Carsten, that that would have built better tension. I was like, are you kidding me? How do you figure telling everything about him is going to raise the stakes? It spoils everything. It let’s you (the reader) off the hook, you’re now in on it, and then you’re just waiting to see the reaction of the other characters as they discover what you already know, instead of being on a journey with those characters. It places the reader in this position of smug know it all. It’s boring. It’s uneventful. Most readers can tell you exactly how the characters will react when they find out the truths coming to them, and how they will come, when they will come. Why? Because when you reveal too much (over share), you give your story away. It becomes predictable. Predictability is death for a thriller. Crimson Peak was far too predictable, because the film unfolded tell after tell.
For my thriller, I refused to take the advice about sharing more on Carsten. In fact, I have doubled down in the sequel for extra measure. I am not sure what is up with the desire to over share. I’ve seen it asked for by others, professionals, and delivered in several works, and it fails those works every time in my opinion. They become trite, PBS (or BBC) productions from the late 1980s. You lament that this amazing idea wasn’t fleshed out with the gusto of mature writing, but instead was left to the hands of a green apprentice. At least, that is the sense the reader comes away with. Unfortunately, the writers are never that green and should know better. To be honest, the viewer/reader has no patience for that, nor should they.
If Crimson Peak had held back the tell-all scenes and focused on their tale unwrapping from Edith Cushing’s (I see what you did there!) point of view, it would have been a much stronger tale. Another rewrite was in order, perhaps, maybe two. That polish and more care with the genre labels, and the film would have done stellar. As it is, it just seems a ghost of it’s own potential.