Tag Archives: Guillermo del Toro

Crimson Peak (2015)

27 Oct

Crimson Peak, the new film by Guillermo del Toro, (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) feels like it has been lifted straight out of a gothic horror novel. Taking a page from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or Nosferatu, every frame of Crimson Peak overflows with a romantic longing for early 19th century horror.

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain, the film tells the story of writer Edith (Wasikowska) as she moves away from her native home in Buffalo after her father mysteriously passes. Edith grew up believing in ghosts, and has the unique gift to communicate with them on occasion. This gift turns into a curse when these apparitions visit more often in a home inhabited by her new husband Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Chastain). Soon, Edith learns a frightening revelation about her new husband and sister in law, one that might prove deadly.

Del Toro has always been one to impress when it comes to production design. A true escapist director, his films always find a way to immerse viewers into their immaculate and delicately crafted worlds. Crimson Peak is no exception; everything from the costumes to the soundtrack to the carefully-pronounciated english dialogue indulges into a romanticized gothic fantasy (nightmare?) that shows del Toro’s directorial skill and passion about the subject matter. Unfortunately, the pacing is just too sluggish and the plot developments tediously follow a familiar path.

As a film that is both thematically and literally engulfed in darkness, Crimson Peak is surprisingly spook-less, barely registering enough jump scares to call itself a “horror” film. Instead, del Toro opts to build tension out of the mystery rather than terror. But the mystery absolves itself a bit too slowly (and predictably) leaving little behind but the beautiful visuals and an overuse of graphic violence to hold the audience’s attention.

Bottom Line: With a spooky atmosphere and a gorgeous production design, Crimson Peak is a visually stunning mystery that unfortunately arrives a little shy on both scares and suspense. 

Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain. Not looking suspicious at all.

Rating: 6/10 

Film Recipe: Stoker + Only Lovers Left Alive – vampires + ghosts 

Goodnight Mommy (2015)

11 Sep

It’s been the quite the year to be a horror movie fan. From fear-inducing breakout indies like It Follows to horror-comedies like What We Do In The Shadows, to upcoming releases from horror veteran directors like M. Night Shyamalan or Guillermo Del Toro, it seems like we have entered into some new genre reconnaissance. Sure, there will always be the thoughtless franchise sequel or reboot looking to make a quick  cash grab (I’m looking you, Poltergeist), but one look at A24’s new trailer for The Witch shows there is still original quality material to get scared for.

And the trend is spreading outside of North America too. In fact, many of the decade’s best genre films have come from different places in the Middle East,  South Asia or Europe. The new German psychological thriller Goodnight Mommy from directors Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz fits into the latter camp. Taking its cues from European neo-realist directors like Lars Von Trier and Michael HanekeGoodnight Mommy tells the story of a mystery surrounding a particular dysfunctional family consisting of The Mother (Susanne Wuest) and her twin sons Elias and Lukas (played by real-life twins Elias and Lukas Schwarz). The trio are isolated in a massive, upper class home nestled deep in the German countryside. It’s unclear at first exactly what has happened to this family; we do know the mother’s face appears to have been replaced by a gruesome medical bandage after an operation, and the two boys have some sort of terrifying preoccupation with collecting cockroaches…

The performances from the young twins, though mostly silent, are hauntingly genuine and give the film a launching pad to explore the dynamics of three characters forced to share the same physical and psychological spaces. Slowly and quietly, the film transforms into a walking daytime nightmare – the living, breathing, kind of a nightmare you can not wake from. The end results are raw, disturbing and authentically scary.

A tight slowburn, the film is expertly paced to reveal only the smallest pieces of information when the audience needs it. Goodnight Mommy relies heavily on atmosphere and tone, which Fiala and Franz have crafted to a fine degree. It’s enough to discourage viewers accustomed to constant jump scares and gore, but Goodnight Mommy is too sophisticated for its own good, much so that when the violence does arrive, it is extremely unsettling.

Bottom Line: While its slower pace might not be for everyone, Goodnight Mommy is a quiet but satisfying artistic examination of loneliness and fear with enough depth and emotion to make second viewings an absolute necessity.

Rating: 8/10

Film Recipie: Vic + Flo Saw A Bear (2013) + Dogtooth (2009) + Michael Haneke