31 Days of Halloween — Day 12: Crimson Peak (2015) — by Dr. Shock

crimsonpeakEditor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

In a recent interview with Wired, Guillermo Del Toro listed his five favorite horror films, the first two of which, The Haunting and The Innocents, are ghost stories (for the record, the other 3 were Alien, Jaws, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). That’s not to say his 2015 offering Crimson Peak is, as some have stated, a haunted house movie; in fact, Del Toro himself has resisted calling it a horror film at all (“You have to fear the living more than the dead”, he said during this same interview, and the movie itself was designed to support this theory). But with its gothic sensibilities and gorgeous production values, as well as a handful of intensely creepy scenes, the director has, indeed, delivered a beautiful, if somewhat trite, ghost story that’s sure to give you at least a few shivers.
It’s the turn of the 20th century, and British nobleman Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) has come to Buffalo, New York, to ask businessman Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) to finance his newest invention, a steam-powered machine that will revolutionize the clay mining industry. Unimpressed with both his presentation and Sharpe himself, Carter refuses, and is further annoyed to learn that the Englishman has started courting his only daughter Edith (Mia Wasikowska). In an effort to end their romance, Carter bribes both Sharpe and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), who accompanied her brother to America, to depart for England as soon as possible. But when Carter dies in a mysterious accident, it clears the way for Edith to marry Sharpe and return with him to his ancestral home.

Alas, Cumberland’s Allerdale Hall, which has been in the Sharpe family for hundreds of years, has fallen into disrepair; aside from the gaping hole in the ceiling, the pipes have slowly rotted away, allowing the red clay from the ground to seep into the water supply. Still, Edith is determined to make the best of the situation and be a good wife to Edward. But the spirits are active in Allerdale Hall, and visit Edith on a regular basis, as if trying to warn her that Edward and Lucille are not what they appear to be.

Story-wise, Crimson Peak is nothing new. Anyone familiar with the work of Edgar Allan Poe will be able to predict most of the film’s twists and turns well in advance (the legendary author was especially fond of bizarre sibling relationships and dark romance, both of which figure prominently in this movie). But what Crimson Peak lacks in originality, it makes up for in style. The scene in which Edith enters Allerdale Hall for the first time is one of the film’s strongest, and shows off the fine work done by Del Toro’s production crew (the house, though vast, is quite ominous, and has leaves, which came in through the hole up above, blowing all around).

Even the early scenes in Buffalo are visually impressive, and perfectly recreate the period in which the film is set. As for the ghosts of Allerdale Hall, each one is bright red, and brought to life by Doug Jones (via motion capture), who also played the Fawn in Pan’s Labyrinth and Abe Sapien in the Hellboy series. Creeping through the halls while at the same time distorting his body in an otherworldly manner, Jones gives the film its spooky vibe, and, along with Jessica Chastain (whose quite good as the overbearing Lucille), brings us to the edge of our seat whenever one of his characters is on-screen.

In the end, watching Crimson Peak was a lot like re-reading my favorite Poe story: the surprises may not be fresh, but it still left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

— Dr. Shock

Don’t miss Jay and Josh’s podcast reviews of Crimson Peak on
Horror Movie Podcast Episode 76 
“Crimson Peak (2015) and We Are Still Here (2015) and Stung (2015) and The Final Girls (2015)” and further discussion on our Top 10 Horror Movies of 2015 show.

Links for Dr. Shock:
Dave’s daily movie review website: DVDInfatuation.com
Follow Dave on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation
Like Dave’s DVD Infatuation now on: Facebook
Dr. Shock also appears on this horror podcast: Land of the Creeps

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9 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 12: Crimson Peak (2015) — by Dr. Shock

  1. I always love hearing Dave’s reviews of these movies that he didn’t catch in theaters. I’ve been waiting so long to find out if he agrees with me or Jason on these films. It makes me happy just to think that he’s seen them. Great review, Dave. Anxiously awaiting your take on It Follows!


    Day 12 – The Hitcher (1986)

    For a period of time after originally watching The Hitcher in the early 2000’s, I considered the film one of my favorite horror movies. At some point, my opinion of it came down and it’s mostly remained at that level ever since. The strongest element of the movie remains the fact that Jim Halsey is forced to endure this cat and mouse game with the ultra dangerous John Ryder. All Jim wanted to do was to help a hitchhiker out while benefiting from having someone to talk to rather than falling asleep behind the wheel. As a result, Jim is unable to escape John and continues to fall into greater and greater trouble with everyone assuming that Jim is the scoundrel that is responsible for the wastelands of bodies. C. Thomas Howell as Jim does a great job at playing this role of the exasperated lead character as he loses his will to live since this new life seems inescapable. Oh sure, Howell has a lot of over the top wacky facial expressions, but I love them.

    In some twisted way, The Hitcher is a coming of age story. At the start of the film, Jim is simply some kid that is seemingly on the first adventure of his life as he crosses the country to deliver the car. There’s a nice moment in the middle of the film where Jim is in the bathroom on the bus, struggling to figure out how to add bullets to his gun. It took him awhile, but gosh darn it, he figured it out! This kid is becoming an adult. By the end of the film Jim flawlessly re-loads his gun to cement the fact that he’s now an adult. This bright, clean baby face kid at the start of the film has been replaced by a dirty, five o’clock shadow wearing, battle torn man.

    There’s a certain odd bond between Jim and John that various characters brings up that they’re unsure of what’s going on between them. I even sensed a little potential homoerotic subtext to the film with John holding the knife against Jim’s crotch during their original run in and John giving off some jealousy vibes when he realizes that his Jim has formed a connection with Nash. The manner in which John killed Nash seemed far more aggressive than the other kills, as if he’s punishing her for getting in the way. The actual bond between Jim and John seems to be built on respect. At the start of the film, John simply tells Jim what he wants Jim to do, “I want you to stop me.” By outsmarting John and kicking him out of the car, I believe Jim earned the respect of John. From that point on, John has decided not to just kill Jim, which I have full confidence he would have otherwise done, and he sets out to have Jim be the one to physically stop him in the only permanent objection available – by death. John’s actions sure weren’t the expected actions of someone who cared about his life, especially as he had Nash tied to the semi truck, knowing that had to be the end of the road for him. When Jim steals the sheriff’s vehicle, I was left with one big question. Did Jim go after John because he was concerned John was going to find a way to escape or did Jim want to finish the job and give John the death that John so badly wanted? I suppose with how the film ends, both can apply as John gets his wish and Jim’s coming of age story meets its conclusion.

    Being that it’s my favorite horror movie, I’m always willing to discuss Halloween 4. Despite watching The Hitcher a handful of times, this is the first time where I noticed quite a few similarities with Halloween 4. For starters, there’s some of the more general Halloween related similarities with the relationship between Jim and John reminding me of Dr. Loomis and Michael Myers. In both cases, Myers and John are not interested in killing their other half. Jim and Loomis mean too much in their role that to do away with them would not be right. John is also a character that keeps popping up, just like Myers or any slasher killers. Focusing on Halloween 4 more, there’s an entire scene at a secluded gas station that ends with the villain causing a giant explosion and nearly runs over the hero. At the end, there’s an entire battle in a pick-up truck, just like in Halloween 4. In fact, I’d even compare the cops that John eliminated to the rednecks that Myers threw off of the truck. Poor John and Michael are sent flying off of the truck and are later struck by the truck. Just like Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4, Jim has to check on the apparently dead killer with the killer jumping back up with the killer finally being killed by gunshot. Both Halloween 4 and The Hitcher saw a short hair blonde girl step up and try to help the main character survive this nightmare with the killer. As slim of a connection as it is, all of the horror begins on one rainy night with a vehicle ride from hell.

    I imagine I can blame any of my negative thoughts on the film on the fact that there’s so few characters. There’s long stretches of time where Jim is alone, forced to deal internally with all of the drama that is occurring to him. With dialog being rare in these scenes, it can be a little dull. Since the movie is only a little over ninety minutes, I can’t say it’s overly long, but it has a very slow and deliberate pace. It’s a tricky situation though as a big part of the horror comes from Jim’s sense of isolation. This movie wouldn’t be able to exist if it took place in the city. By being in the middle of nowhere Texas, Jim is practically all on his own and any help he is able to find is easily eliminated by John. Likewise, it’s not as if you can introduce Nash as Jim’s partner in crime sooner. The sooner Jim and Nash hooks up, the sooner Jim has some hope or at least a means of staying sane. It’s even part of the reason why Nash’s death is so effective. Nash was the one person holding Jim together, with her gone, Jim went a bit loco by stealing the police car and going back after Ryder. So while the film is slow, perhaps it’s just a necessary evil with the story they were telling.

    Overall, while my love of The Hitcher has lessened over the years, it’s still a movie I frequently think about. With it’s terrifying antagonist that that begins his obsession and refuses to let it go, Jim Halsey is put through a never ending series of nightmares in trying to rid his life of his new friend in his life. Thanks to it’s vast landscapes, sense of isolation, and hopelessness, it’s still very easy to be sucked into Jim’s story. So much of the horror of the film comes from what your imagination is left to come up with. What was done to the family in the station wagon? What happened to Nash’s body when she was killed with the semi? How did the shootout in the police station go down? We’re only given brief snippets of each and to some extent, it makes it all the more terrifying. I’d recommend everyone checks out The Hitcher at least once, but perhaps do so with a cup of coffee in hand as well.

    Rating: 7.5

  3. Day 12: The ABCs of Death 2 (2014)

    Rating: 5.5/10 (low priority rental)

    — — — — — Contains spoilers — — — — —

    What I liked:
    – The overall quality of the segments is much higher in 2 than the original.
    – “S is for Split” … wow.

    What I didn’t like:
    – Same gripes as with the original; mainly that there are way too many segments and they’re not really long enough to develop into interesting ideas.
    – The segments are completely disparate with no connective tissue.

  4. I really liked Crimson Peak. I would say it’s definitely Drama first and then Horror second. But, for the Horror fans there is a fair amount of violence and gore and the Gothic setting is awesome. The house itself is likened to it’s own character in the movie. Huge, old, brooding and darkly beautiful. I love the visuals in this movie as well. I know a lot of these same things were mentioned when reviewed earlier this year on HMP so I won’t continue down that path, however I would definitely recommend watching at least once. Daves review covered this better but I will give my rating of a solid 8 and a buy for me!

  5. I’m still baffled about Jay claiming this wasn’t a horror movie. To me this is the definition of horror at it’s purest and most gothic.

  6. Day 12 – The Ones Below

    Hmmm. yes I know. Not a horror film, and barely qualifying for my 31 days of October list. It’s a descent film though. Well shot and well acted. It carries itself just fine. I put it in the same category as my day 5 movie The Uninvited. The execution is strong, but there’s nothing really revelatory or profound about the plot. It’s a solid choice if you’re looking for a gentle thriller about babies and pregnancy. 6.5/10

  7. Day 12: Dracula Untold (2014)
    Rating: 6.5/10

    Not a great film but worth a watch. Lots of action and drama for a horror film. This is another origin story for Dracula.

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