A Quiet Place Review - Silence is survival in this emotional film about human fragility and the power of sound
It is crazy to think just how many times a day we make sound. When we do the dishes or make our beds. As we walk across hard-wood floors or turn a key in a car. Slurping and crunching as we eat. Even tossing and turning in our sleep. Every time we move. Every breathe we take. Every word spoken. Now imagine those actions, from the tiniest cough to the loudest clang, meant that you could be torn to shreds in a matter of moments. It’s enough to make you catch your breath, right? Sit up a little straighter, eyes wider, more alert? Well, that is the beautifully simplistic premise behind John Krasinski’s new horror/thriller A Quiet Place (2018). The tagline little more than ‘If they hear you, they can hunt you’. And it’s about as disturbing as you might think, with The Office (2005 – 2013) alum masterfully directing, starring-in and even co-writing the script to this unsettling and menacing take on a creature feature.
The film’s premise is easy to follow, throwing us into a world where blind, armoured creatures with super-hearing skills have taken over, leaving humans to survive only by their silence. We follow the Abbott family, including Lee (John Krasinski) and his wife Evelyn (the actor/director’s real-life partner Emily Blunt), as well as their three children, who communicate using sign language and are ultra-vigilant of ever making a noise lest they be killed. If it were an easy feat though the film wouldn’t amount to much of a horror piece, so mere minutes in we are left with the tragic consequences of an all-too-easy sound slip-up. But the real-kicker comes as we jump forward in time and find Evelyn not only pregnant, but due in a matter of days. It’s a confronting premise, bringing a baby into such a constrained and unforgiving world, not only because of their innate noisiness and unpredictability, but for the ethics of the bleak future that awaits it. And there-in lies the heart of the film - a family uncompromising in their desire to survive no matter the losses that may await them.
In a film with less than 50 lines of dialogue (give or take), sound obviously plays a key role, drawing us into the Abbott’s world and putting us on edge with every click, chirp or buzz. It’s a colossal undertaking and the editing team use every trick in their book to make the lack of noise and dialogue an intense and involving show. There’s not a moment to be bored or a yawn to be stifled during the slick 90-minute run-time. Never have I heard an audience so silent and still, as if their own sounds or breaths could cause harm. Beyond that, A Quiet Place (2018) is imbued with layer upon layer of depth, the audience at times also granted the chance to experience the desolate world through the ears of child Regan (played with complexity and maturity by deaf actress Millicent Simmonds), whose hearing impairment opens up a whole new terror to think about. Every detail has been carefully crafted to create suspense and foreshadow events to come, from a stationary blue truck to rockets, and even light globes strung across the cornfield. And while it’s fair to say that not everything about this new world is easily explained away (imagine trying to remain quiet with an oncoming sneeze or grumbling stomach), those behind the camera have done their best within the film’s limited scope.
Visually the film also excels, with Krasinski turning to close-ups to deliver the emotional impact of the situation where words can’t. We see the Abbott’s fear as we hear it, and long, long before the pointy teeth of the monsters ever arrive. The actors respond phenomenally too, as they cycle through their various emotions. Blunt provides a powerhouse performance and is in perfect form as the unit’s grieving-but-determined mother, while Krasinski imbues great sadness as the devoted patriarch. But equally important are the performances of the children, including a terrified Noah Jupe as son Marcus and brilliant turn from Simmonds as the young daughter longing for independence. Each shot has a soft glow hanging over it, as if imitating dusk, which strips the scenes back as our characters are. But in this dying world there is also profound elegance to be found - you just need listen to the wind whispering through the golden cornfields or the water whipping over the rocks at a waterfall to see there is beauty, even amongst the bad.
The true hero here though is Krasinski, who shines with just his third stab at directing a feature film. Keen not to play by the rules of classic horror, instead he uses what made his second picture – the dramatic comedy piece The Hollars (2016) - so successful, by making us care innately about the characters and the gravity of the situation befalling them. If your heart doesn’t hurt from the sacrifices made here, then maybe you aren’t watching properly. Too often horror is associated with little more than masks, sharks, slashing and screams. But its fundamentally more frightening to have to contemplate death before experiencing it. And to face an enemy you can’t comprehend and whose weakness is just as mysterious. Krasinski taps into that fear with ease, giving hints to the monsters’ appearance before the big reveal, and leaving no more than a few meagre newspaper clippings as clues to where the beasts came from or why they are there. If he has learnt anything from horror films of the past, it is that the denial of information can sometimes be much more powerful than anything we ever see on screen.
What sets A Quiet Place apart from those genre pieces that have come before, is the shear humanity of our survivors. A girl who believes she neither has nor deserves her father’s love. The heartbreak of a mother who wishes she could take one moment back. The fear of a boy who is forced to contemplate the macabre realities of death daily. And a father, who would do anything to protect those he loves. There is more heart here than most dramas. And more stress than any action piece could provide. You’ll feel like you’ve run a marathon by the time the closing credits start to roll. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll feel like there’s still a lot to be said in the silence.
Rating: 4.5 Quiet Krasinski's out of 5
Clowns have never scared me. Unnerved, sure. Weirded out, wouldn’t you be. But terrified? Not so much. After all, they’re little more than a person dressed in a suit, designed to entertain and thrill you. Right? But then came the news that Warner Bros had decided to bring their crazed-killer-clown adaptation IT (1990) into the 21st century. And with it came a series of creepy (and allegedly unrelated) sightings of such creatures across the world. And suddenly clowns stopped representing a fun night out at the circus or rodeo and instead became psychotic killers lurking in bushes. Perhaps after Stephen King’s original novel they always had been. What is interesting though, is that the studio’s remake could have so easily played into this melodrama and cliché. That clowns are evil and that’s all there is to them. But these red-nosed, white-faced, devilishly-smiling creatures aren’t the only thing to fear and IT (2017) wisely knows it. Sometimes, what makes us most afraid, is fear itself.
Based on King’s work, and given the seal of approval from the author himself, the movie follows a rag-tag group of teens as they investigate a spate of mysterious disappearances in their sleepy Maine town. A year after Bill’s (Jaeden Lieberher) little brother Georgie vanishes while out playing, he and his ‘Loser Club’ friends start witnessing haunting visions. From blood-soaked bathrooms to pus-filled lepers, each play on the children’s worst fears. And soon they start culminating in the appearance of Pennywise, a malevolent clown (Bill Skarsgard). Not your average circus performer, this monster is determined to wreak havoc, using a red balloon, well-timed music and a set of nasty teeth to do the job. Scared, yet determined to get to the bottom of it, the team start connecting the dots the adults refuse to see, leading them deep into Derry’s history and sewer systems to find the heart of the beast itself.
Part horror, part coming-of-age tale, the film dances around both for most of its two-hour runtime. But director Andy Muschietti has a steady hand and throws us just enough of both to keep us intrigued. A close-up of Pennywise’s face here, a dramatic build-up there and just enough gore sprinkled between the moments of childhood innocence. His biggest success though is making us care for the seven-strong main cast, each getting almost enough screen-time and bonding moments to make them individuals. Even if Stan is reduced to little more than the Jewish boy preparing for his Bat Mitzvah and Ben is represented as the formulaic new kid who spends his time in the library. The child actors show talent and wisdom beyond their years though, led by an impressive performance from Jaeden Lieberher. But two standouts work hard to upstage him, in Finn Wolfhard’s foul-mouthed, comic-relief character Ritchie, and the dazzlingly-innocent yet terrifically tomboyish performance of Sophia Lillis’ Beverley.
And while killer-clowns sound like the most cliched of all horror tropes, IT’s fiendish villain is a breath of fresh air. Skarsgard delivers a phenomenal and all-encompassing turn, so deeply and richly conceived it’s hard to see any humanity in the character at all. It’s not Tim Curry’s iconic version, I’ll give you that, but it’s a scintillating vision nonetheless. Sadly, it is let down by Muschietti, who spends too much time establishing the character rather than delving into the film’s darker fear – that parents are the true fiends. He hints at it when we see abusive fathers controlling their daughters or pushing their sons to breaking point, but it is never at the forefront. And its such a let down, because fear is a contagion that is made worse when we can’t explain or confront it. And for all the dread, uncertainty and mystical forces Pennywise conjures up, he can be overcome. Trusted adults exploiting their power and pretending the terror isn’t real, is a whole lot harder to beat.
The movie’s strongest element therefore, is its focus on the theme of fear. For starters, each child’s horror is hinted at long before it is used against them. For Beverley, coming into womanhood and having her first period, blood plays a big part in her terror. While Eddie, raised by a mother in constant fear of his health, the thing that frightens him is sickness. Mike, the outcast unable to deal with death, is forced to relive such a demise time and time again, just as Stanley, who has no tangible female figure in his life, is unable to get past a creepy portrait of a woman hanging in his father’s office. And then there is Bill, plagued by his brother’s disappearance and unable to let him go. But the most frightening part of what Pennywise represents is the fear of the unknown. A killer clown that appears from nowhere, doesn’t discriminate and most importantly – is never named. Fear of fear itself is what drives the film forward and keeps us glued to our seats. Because if we can’t understand it, how can we hope to beat it?
With King’s mammoth novel spanning more than 27 years and more than 1,000 pages, the question of splitting the film was, for once, a legitimate no-brainer. Unlike Twilight (2008), The Hunger Games (2012) or The Hobbit films (2012 – 2014), in this case making two films from one book will finally prove not just a box office hit, but also one the critics can’t slam. Provided it has the same level of fun and friendship delivered in act one. Because who doesn’t like watching a group of misfit kids throw rocks at bullies while an eighties soundtrack blares behind them.?Or see them whack the crap out of a clown using metal poles, baseball bats and chains? It just ups the ante when they become adults. The only thing I’m hoping for is that the giant spider from the novel doesn't make its way into the antagonist’s manifestations second time round. Because that would truly be terrifying.
Rating: 4 Red Balloons out of 5
There is no denying that Multiple Personality Disorders, or what we layman commonly refer to as split personalities, are about as close to a classic Hollywood horror trope as you can get. From Alfred Hitchcock’s genre-defining flick Psycho (1960) to David Fincher’s hit film Fight Club (1999), movie-makers have created a major market out of exploiting such mental illness. And while their intentions are usually more profit-based than pure, it must be said that in the process they have also shed light on an issue rarely discussed. So, while it is understandable that the most politically correct among us have been calling for a boycott of M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film Split (2017) thanks to its representation of this disease, it is also understandable that others may find the film a guilty pleasure, which is thought-provoking, suspenseful and superbly acted.
Split builds its universe around Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man who was abused as a child and subsequently splintered his psyche into 23 distinct personalities to cope. Among them are fashion designer Barry, diabetes afflicted Jade, evangelical Miss Patricia, obsessive-compulsive Dennis and nine-year-old Kanye West-loving Hedwig. We are introduced to these alters one-by-one through the eyes of the trio of teenage girls they kidnap and imprison in an underground bunker. Knocked out in a parking lot after a birthday party, feisty friends Claire and Marcia are keen to kick down walls and fight for their lives, while our soon-to-be leading lady and heroine Casey, a detention-loving outsider whose back-story bares a rather striking resemblance to Kevin’s, is happy to suss out the situation before she makes her move. The girls soon realise they are up against no normal foe though, when the alters begin to mention a menacing and malevolent final personality known only as ‘The Beast’. With their sacrifice to the monster looming, what follows is a daring and disturbing high stakes game of cat and mouse.
After years of half-hearted twists, poor cinematic choices and frankly squalid scripts, Shyamalan is surprisingly centred here. With controlled camera movements, sleek dialogue and excellent performances littered throughout, it is almost like we could forget his career-destroying misfires The Last Airbender (2010) and After Earth (2013) ever existed. Sadly, there are some things that even time can’t obliterate. Split is at least a world away from these, swapping a tunnel vision focus on the ultimate twist turn in favour of an electrifying pace and curious link to one of Shyamalan’s forgotten gems. A team-up with It Follows (2015) cinematographer Mike Goulka’s proves fruitful too, the duo cranking up the intimate and claustrophobic camera work to remind us how horror movies are defined by what they don’t show rather than what they do. A camera that hardly dares leave a protagonist invites such dread when it does.
James McAvoy is a tour-de-force as far as the acting goes, dominating every moment he is on screen with impassioned energy and empathy. Never once do we struggle to know which alter he is inhabiting, his mannerisms accurate down to the last eyebrow lift or goofy grin. Elevating the villain is never an easy feat, but here the Scotsman succeeds on charm alone. Relative newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy triumphs too, holding her own against her more experienced co-stars and building on her phenomenal breakthrough in The Witch (2015). Such ethereal power and persuasion is rarely found in Hollywood stars, especially so young. With this just the start of her career, it will be a pleasure just to see where it goes. The remainder of the cast provide solid support, but are never given enough screen-time or backstory to truly develop. Best of them is familiar face Betty Buckley in the rather redundant role of Dr Fletcher, if only for the fact she is finally given the chance to redeem herself after her involvement in The Happening (2008).
With such incredible performances, it is easy to overlook Split’s faults, but that is not to say they don’t exist. For instance, Kevin’s frustratingly dense therapist Dr Fletcher, who is so caught up in trying to prove that the damaged among us can become the next step in evolution based on their thoughts alone that she fails to see it is happening with Kevin’s latest beastly alter. Similarly, for all the taut suspense and genuine intrigue Shyamalan builds, Split is let down by the most basic of movie problems – the lack of a streamlined narrative. Bouncing back and forth between Kevin’s therapist’s office and the underground lair rips the audience out of the high-tension game. Add in the jarring flashbacks to Casey’s youth that seem strangely out of place and we are left with an untidy mess that would set of Dennis’s OCD for sure.
Despite it’s fractured premise, Split proves to be Shyamalan’s most straightforward film to date. Perhaps that’s the reason it is proving to be one of his most successful too. But in classic Shyamalan style it wouldn’t be complete without somewhat of a twist. And whether you take that as the monster lurking beneath the surface that is not the simple Criminal Minds (2005) type we have been brought up to expect, or as the cameo that proves a shared-universe theory, is up to you. So long as you suspend disbelief, prepare for upturned superhero stereotypes and try not to overthink the thoughtless science, you’ll walk away happy. And hopefully, talking about why people are the way they are.
Rating: 3 Personalities out of 5
One of the scariest statistics about shark attacks is how they most often occur in less than six feet of water. Not only that, but according to the International Shark Attack File from the Florida Museum of Natural History, of last year’s 164 recorded shark attacks 98 of them were unprovoked. The most frightening piece of information about sharks though, is the commonly overlooked statistic that there are at least 28 other animals more likely to bite you than these razor-toothed foes. It’s safe to say that this last tidbit was overlooked for Sony’s latest menacing monster flick The Shallows (2016). Thankfully too, with director Jaume Collet-Serra crafting a tense and taut thriller that plays on society's deepest and darkest fears. Although realism and common sense make way for picturesque landscapes and gut-wrenching glee, Collet-Serra’s strong cinematography and edge of your seat action provide audiences pure popcorn escapism.
The soft sound of the ocean swell lulls us into The Shallows, with the film opening as a young boy discovers a Go Pro in the surf of a seemingly deserted Mexican beach. An innocent and unnerving scene soon turns sour when he replays the footage, catching a glimpse of the man-eating shark who will menace our main protagonist Nancy for the next hour and a half. Reeling from the recent death of her mother, the med-school dropout is restless, lost and seeking to regain her fighting spirit. Visiting a secret beach Nancy soon finds she is not alone after she is tugged beneath the surface. Critically injured and stranded on a rock shelf as the tide begins to turn, Nancy must use her wits to outsmart the great white shark and make it to the nearby buoy. But when it becomes apparent that help may not arrive, survival of the fittest begins to take on a whole new meaning.
As an Australian the most annoying part of the film is the fact Nancy defies three of the most crucial rules about avoiding shark attacks. Number one – never swim at dawn or dusk. Warned about it when she first arrives at the beach, Nancy still tries to catch one last wave before the sun sets and that is arguably why she winds up in the predicament in the first place. Secondly, she swims right up to a whale carcass, which was not only visible, but swamped by birds and bite marks. Lastly, she defies the never swim alone mantra, when her friend bails on her at the last minute and her two surfing compadres decide to call it quits for the day. However, this is not a film making its money off the logical, as other survival thrillers like 127 Hours (2010) did. Instead it takes pleasure in the visual, with a number of stellar action and establishing scenes. Notably there is the first pull-back to Nancy mid-wave, a dark silhouette shrouded in the curl of the water behind her. It’s not the two-note soundtrack tactic that Jaws (1975) took, but it’s an interesting method all the same. Similarly, despite a limited script the acting is as visceral as the visuals, Lively proving to be breath of fresh air in comparison to her Gossip Girl (2007) days. Like her husband Ryan Reynolds in his flick Buried (2010), majority of the film rests on her shoulders alone and she carries herself well whether she be surfing, swimming or screaming.
Filmed in Australia, on the beautiful beaches of the Gold Coast, the movie is sure to hit closer to home for many Australians. Especially after the spate of shark killings that have occurred off our beaches in the last decade. But the cinematography is a visual monster all by itself and one that demands to be seen on the big screen. To say it is beautiful is an understatement, with stunning overhead shots that soar above crystal clear seas and smooth ethereal underwater scenes. There are a few moments where time drags, as the filmmakers set up the scene and amp up the anticipation for the inevitable attack. However creating contrasts are what survival stories are all about. Close ups of surf straps and rubbery wetsuits are all-important to understand just how versatile they can be down the track. Best of all, the camera itself acts like a shark, its leering gaze drifting towards Nancy’s legs to create a deliberate attempt at audience discomfort. There is a trade-off though in paying too much attention to the landscape, with the film sometimes losing the fear and ferocity of its main attraction.
On a serious note, one must acknowledge the potentially dangerous flaws with such a flick, considering its misrepresentation of sharks. Just as Jaws spawned an interest in popularizing the recreational killing of sharks and vilified the creatures of the deep, so too does this movie treat them with little respect. Despite being an endangered species and one that rarely interacts willingly with humans, the shark in The Shallows is represented as a revenge-fuelled predator, more intent on knocking women off whales than feeding on the plentiful bounty its blubber would provide. What the film does point out though is how overfishing can push these creatures closer to human territory. It’s a shame Hollywood can’t sell science instead of fear in their films.
The Shallows might not be in the same league as Jaws, but you can feel it chomping at the bits to honour it. It even has the same slightly corny humour, with the best part of the film a bird aptly called ‘Steven Seagull’. The faithful friend is easily interpretable as a sign of Nancy’s late mother and it’s a heart-warming touch considering the lack of real backstory provided. Although the film adds little to the already established shark genre, it’s a rollicking ride and a throwback to classic edge-of-your-seat thrillers, where you can smell the saltwater, taste the seaspray and feel the searing sun on your face. Just what we all need before summer rolls in and we wonder whether it’s safe to enter the water.
Rating: 3 Teeth out of 5
Despite only directing seven films in the genre, James Wan is undeniably a modern master of horror. His talent comes in taking simplistic stereotypes like brides and clapping games and making them the stuff of nightmares. His latest flick, scary sequel The Conjuring 2 (2016) continues the trend, making sure you’ll never think of nuns or British pensioners in quite the same way. Taut, tense and downright terrifying, The Conjuring 2 doesn’t quite scare up the same suspense as its predecessor, but damn it if it doesn’t come close.
Based on the true tale of the Enfield Poltergeist, the film follows the Hodgson family, made up of mum Peggy, daughters Margaret and Janet, and boys Johnny and Billy. Life is not easy for the British bunch, with no money for biscuits and young Billy picked on at school for his stutter. Things get a whole lot worse though when Janet finds herself teleporting around the house and hosting the deep voice of a 70 year old man named Bill Wilkins. Nearing the end of their tether, the family take their story public in the hope that someone will hear their plight and help. With their own personal problems, which become more evident as the film progresses, supernaturalists Ed and Lorraine Warren are reluctant to get involved when called in by the Catholic Church. However, reason gives way to heart, and they take up the cause to decipher whether it is one of the worst cases they’ve ever faced or one of the biggest wind-ups in paranormal history.
It’s a smartly scripted piece, bringing us full circle from the first film and again playing on the terrors that lurk out of sight rather than those we see. What’s even smarter this time round though is the strong focus on the children and in particular Janet, who are the only ones who witness the disturbances at the start before adults are gradually introduced to the terrors, thereby making us constantly question the validity of the ‘ghost’ story and the truth or trickery behind it. Sequels too often fall into the trap of trying to emulate their former films scene-by-scene that they forget to bring anything new to the plate. But what makes The Conjuring 2 succeed, is its inclusion of the opposing voice – the critics, non-believers and sceptics. Balanced films are so few and far between nowadays that it is a pure and simple joy when one finally surfaces. So much so that it is easy to forgive its weaker parts.
The film certainly has them though, notably in the rather long time it takes to really get rolling, with the Hodgson’s and the Warren’s not even meeting until after the first half of the film. When they do, it is still stand-offish, as any true bond between the families seems fractured until the inevitable denouement. What is also surprising is the fact Wan leaned on the same scare a number of times. Creepy turns around corners are indeed chilling for viewers to watch, but eventually what was once thrilling turns somewhat tedious. The other downside is the extreme variance in the ghosts and ghouls. Where the nun is perhaps one of the creepiest characters ever put to screen, the crooked man comes across as a laughable and cartoonic CGI caricature.
Wan proves his mettle though with some simply stunning shots, including a creative scene involving the unsettling nun, an establishing shot where we are guided around all the individual rooms of the Hodgson home to witness the inhabitants within, and another involving an eerie and evocative interview made with backs turned. He tests our sanity time and time again, building up anticipation, only to let it come crashing down around you. One of his best sequences has to be the moment Ed sings an impromptu Elvis concert, as you wait thoroughly prepared for the family night to turn south and instead are simply given the utter delight of Patrick Wilson’s voice. A good horror director knows when to scare you, a great one knows when not to, and the best understands the area in between. Horror aficionados and enthusiasts will certainly be pleased, with Wan creating a clear homage to the best of the best. Where Hitchcock mastered suspense at the turn of the 20th century and Craven turned schlock and slasher into something memorable in the seventies, Wan will be remembered for his stylish and sophisticated presence in the genre for many years to come.
Young actress Madison Wolfe proves her status as a rising star, with a controlled and compelling performance, donning an incredible British accent that will make you do a double take to believe she really is a bonafide American. Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson are also electric, cranking up the notch without succumbing to cliché, their chemistry eliciting genuine emotion from their audience by the film’s resolution. The only downside to this is the depth of their storyline sometimes stunts the films progression, as you become too rooted in their world and not in the connection they have with the family. They are, after all, at their best when they are answering their calling from God, and between the stories dual arc and the focus on questioning the validity of the girls account, we don’t see them unite enough.
One of the biggest problems fans might raise with the film though is its quick dismissal of iconic and well-documented Amityville case. The movie opens with the Warrens investigating the event, before strongly suggesting it was none other than a hoax. However, that is the beauty of The Conjuring 2, in taking something so cinematically infamous and turning it on its head, juxtaposing it with the film’s final climactic reveal and reminding audiences’ horror is so much more than blood, guts and gore. It is a sequel that does its predecessor proud, respecting the tone and style already established, yet remaining unique enough it to stand on its own feet. How lucky we are to have two such films now in this world…
Rating: 4 Crucifixes out of 5
Guillermo Del Toro is a master of horror. Surprisingly, he is also a master of romance too. Gothic romance that is. Crimson Peak (2015), Del Toro’s latest foray into the directing world is a suspenseful, atmospheric, and beautifully crafted piece. It is also a telling exploration of love, and the forbidden temptations it brings with it. Because we all know that beneath the handsome façade of those we fall in love with, are the devilish and shadowy skeletons hiding in their closest. Which in this case turns out to be both literal and figurative.
In the words of Edith, Crimson Peak isn’t a ghost story; it is instead a story that features ghosts. Each one serving as a metaphor for the way in which our past indiscretions never really remain ‘dead and buried’. The tale focuses on young protagonist, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), an eligible, sophisticated, and no-holds barred woman, who after tragedy befalls her, finds herself swept up into the arms of the dashing and debonair Baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Whisked away to Allerdale Hall with the English lad and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), Edith finds herself faced with life in an abode that is not only slowly decaying, but hiding within it a malevolent force. With the creaks and groans of the night growing louder, and the honeymoon dream slowly turning into nightmare, Edith is left with only one option; to uncover the real truth as to what lies beneath Crimson Peak.
Despite the film being labelled as part of the horror-genre, to class the film as such is a disgrace to its depth. Instead, it plays out as a fractured fairy-tale, from the moment the camera pans onto the title as if it were the cover of a book we were reading, all the way through to the lines plucked craftily from Elizabethan classics. This be a story of monsters, which come not always as the terrors lurking in the walls, or the spectres down the dark and unlit corridors, but buried within the people we love. Hate and desire are both passionate emotions, and they are after all, so very closely entwined.
The real achievement though is Del Toro’s proficiency for cinematography. If you see the movie for nothing other than the visuals, you will not be disappointed. At once both engrossing and meticulous, Del Toro masterfully crafts his scenes to be portraits of breathe-taking, striking and unnerving awe. Never once do we see the colour red in a scene that does not feature some form of other-worldly essence. And never once do we ever feel like the cinematic auteur isn’t giving 110%. The walls ‘breath, bleed, and remember’, like the real living entity they are, with red clay oozing from beneath the floorboards, snow gently falling through the decaying hole in the ceiling, and the ground outside the manor bleeding into a startlingly scarlet as winter fast approaches. Like watching a wound tear open in slow motion, viewing the film is intense and graphic, yet so remarkable that despite your best efforts, you can’t actually look away.
Whilst Hiddleston is easily the best thing to look at in the film (as Stephen Colbert said in his recent interview with the cast, he does show his *English Countryside* after all), and Wasikowska is fresh and enlivened as our hero Edith, the show belongs entirely to Chastain. She is almost unrecognizable from her turn in The Martian (2015), channeling a ferocity and sternness that shows you why she is one of the best emerging talents in Hollywood. Meryl Streep should watch her back, because the future of female film roles may have finally found a replacement. She is supprted strongly though by Hiddleston, who charms his way through the piece and is likely the reason the film has an estimated 60% female audience. It’s understandable too though, with his and Wasikowska’s sex scene alone making the price of the ticket worth it. The grin he pulls there is to die for. The only true disappointment though comes in the fact that Charlie Hunnam is under-utilised in his role as Dr Alan McMichael. The Sons of Anarchy (2008) star gives a strong effort, but there’s just not enough time dedicated to his character to make him more meaningful than a one-dimensional veneer for the classic ‘love triangle’.
What is also shameful with a piece this elegant, is how poorly it has landed with audiences. In America it opened to a solid, yet disappointing $13 million dollar weekend. Sure it was up against strong contenders, like family fare Goosebumps (2015) and megalith The Martian (2015), but it would seem that fans of cinema are continuing to turn away from more complex and graphic storytelling, for lighter popcorn fare. Whilst perhaps not the easiest of films to swallow; Crimson Peak is a film that once again reflects Del Toro’s style and storytelling, and the compelling way he can make the grotesque beautiful. The man's genius is in how his films symbolism eats away at your soul and your mind, not content to simply strive for a broken heart like most other pieces do. This one in particular does just that, ruining you from the inside out; just as the red seeps through every pore of Allerdale Hall, and the butterflies perish to the dying of the light.
Rating: 4 butterflies out of 5
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