If you’re heading to the cinema this weekend there’s only one film I’d recommend for the perfect Halloween: Crimson Peak. Yeah, the title gave that away didn’t it?
This isn’t really a review of the film per se, but as I’ve read a few articles about its disappointing performance at the box office I feel duty bound to give it a plug.
Why’s it perfect for Halloween? It’s gothic. All of the Gothic. If it was a person it’d be wearing a black frilly shirt, have kohl-smeared eyes and be listening to Sisters of Mercy on repeat on its iPod (I know they claimed not to be goth, but their audience begged to differ) while doing the change-the-lightbulb two-step.
I wrote a while ago about the Gothic exhibition at The British Library. Now I’ve had time to mull it over I think it’s probably the best exhibition I’ve been to. But for the purposes of this post there’s one thing which stands out. There were various attempts to define the genre, the best of which was from Neil Gaiman. I’m paraphrasing, but here goes:
If the cover could be a picture of a young lady in a nightdress, holding a candle, running away from a castle which has one lit window high up, and in that lit window is the silhouette of someone watching, then it’s gothic.
And that could definitely be the poster for Crimson Peak. In fact it sort of is one of them. See above!
It revels in gothic. It’s gleeful about it, but never falls into camp. Starting with a well-executed Nosferatu homage (so often done poorly) the film bathes, Elizabeth Bathory-like in the blood of its genre-kin.
My personal favourite moment is when Mia Wasikowska’s protagonist (and how about that cast – Wasikowska, Tom Hiddlestone and Jessica Chastain) arrives at the ruined mansion (standard) to find blood red clay literally oozing up out of the floorboards with every step she takes. This is a film that knows how to have fun with foreshadowing.
There are a few jump-scares, but the film doesn’t rely on them. Guillermo Del Toro understands the genre so knows that’s not all horror is. And there’s gore too, which certainly surprised most people in the screening I went to. But look back at his most lauded film, Pan’s Labyrinth, and it’s clear Del Toro is fond of viscera.
Crimson Peak is a visual feast and designer’s dream. My wife is something of an amateur costume historian and in museums can always date an outfit to the right year (for fashion from 1700 – 1950 at any rate). She raved about the accuracy of the costumes – some of them self consciously behind the times, others bang on trend for the year.
Heck, even the sex scene (of course there’s sex, that’s what gothic is all about) lets us ogle more of Tom Hiddlestone than Mia Wasikowska – how grown up!
It’s a film that clearly loves its genre. That loves horror and, most importantly, respects it. If it’s still showing near you go and see it.
If it’s a night in you’re after, but still fancy something gothic I’d recommend Stoker (which also starred Mia Wasikowska) for a slice of modern-set but no less genre literate cinema.
Those are my picks for a night out or in this halloween. What are yours?