*Spoiler Alert! This post reveals details of Crimson Peak’s plot*
I confess. I am no horror film buff. At one point in my life, I actually swore off watching trailers for scary movies – they were enough to keep me up at night, neurotically tucking blankets around my scaredy-cat self.
However, like any good movie fanatic, I have kept a curious eye on all the new releases, even the scream fodder. I see the trailers, the billboards, the posters, and I notice a pattern: the majority of scare-fests released in the last 10 or so years involve a monster (spirit, demon, what have you) out to get the frantic heroine/hero. The found-footage phenomenon, in which the poor camera-person falls victim to an often unseen force, just keeps growing like the Blob.
Absolutely, this trend is good, creepy fun! But it’s interesting to observe the pattern of looking outside of ourselves to find monsters, blaming a spiritual or fantasy world as the source of our cinematic terrors and troubles.
To this, Guillermo del Toro, master of the dark and sweeping fantasy epic, steps in with an alternative. In Crimson Peak, glowing and seeping with visceral tangibility, del Toro gives audiences a gentle nudge in the other direction.
Through delicate touches, subtle twists in perception, and a slow but gripping revelation of the film’s mystery, Crimson invites us not to survive an onslaught of frightful spooks, but the far more horrifying psyches that created those ghosts. What’s more disturbing, the film asks: a ghastly force that we can’t understand, or the twists and warps of humanity that we can?
You see, these spirits may be the most terrifying images we see in the movie, but don’t mistake them for the monsters! Spectacular sound design, performances, and special effects will scare your pants off, but as the film progresses, the truth is revealed. These creepy, limping figures are only there to help, not to harm. What you really have to be afraid of as you follow the dogged sleuthing of the heroine are the people she calls friends…
While I mean no offense to the pop horror genre, filled with ghoulish blood-suckers and violent poltergeists, I really enjoyed the refreshing humanity of Crimson Peak. Sure, it’s a fantasy, no doubting that. But I found that the twist of the story, the villainy of its living characters, made it more about the personhood of its characters, even the un-dead ones.