Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak (2015) posterUniversal/Legendary (2015) 119 min. R

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Screenplay: Matthew Robbins & Guillermo del Toro

Cinematography: Dan Laustsen; Editing: Bernat Vilaplana

Production Design: Thomas E. Sanders; Set Decoration: Jeffrey A. Melvin & Shane Vieau; Costumes: Kate Hawley; Score: Fernando Velázquez

Stars: Mia Wasikowska (Edith Cushing), Tom Hiddleston (Sir Thomas Sharpe), Jessica Chastain (Lady Lucille Sharpe), Charlie Hunnam (Dr. Alan McMichael), Jim Beaver (Carter Cushing), Burn Gorman (Mr. Holly), Javier Botet (Ghosts of Pamela, Enola & Margaret), Doug Jones (Ghosts of Edith’s Mother, The Dowager Lady Sharpe)

Well-cast, sumptuous reimagining of the classic ghost story, Crimson Peak is classy entertainment, so we can forgive it the many delirious, unapologetic excesses into Gothic melodrama. There’s something decidedly refreshing about a film that accepts itself for what it is, as this one does, rather than striving to convince us it’s anything grander than that. Embracing the conventions of the genre wholeheartedly, the director Guillermo del Toro revels in his own richly absurd, deliciously overripe camp scares. He has no qualms about crafting a movie that’s a throwback to the most Victorian of haunted house humbugs.

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Mama

mama-poster01Universal (2013) 100 min. PG-13

Director: Andrés Muschietti

Screenplay: Neil Cross, Andrés Muschietti & Barbara Muschietti; based on short film Mamá (2008)

Cinematography: Antonio Riestra; Editing: Michele Conroy 

Production Design: Anastasia Masaro 

Costumes: Mark Bridges

Score: Fernando Velázquez

Stars: Jessica Chastain (Annabel), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Lucas/Jeffrey), Megan Charpentier (Victoria), Isabelle Nélisse (Lilly), Daniel Kash (Dr. Dreyfuss), Jane Moffat  (Jean Podolski/Mama [Voice]), Javier Botet (Mama)

Jessica Chastain has proven herself a character acting chameleon over the last few years and her ubiquitous presence gives Andrés Muschietti’s feature-length adaptation of his 2008 Spanish-language short Mamá an aura of class that really isn’t warranted. You never know what hair dye the actress is going to be colored from one role to the next, and after her failed previous nomination, Chastain has gotten the Oscar formula down pat. On competing screens in the tony, high-concept, CIA thriller Zero Dark Thirty, for which she’s nominated for the Academy Award, she’s opened wide for more democratic appeal in the audience pleasing shriek fest Mama, about two feral girls whose adoptive parents discover they’ve brought something equally untamed back out of the wilds with them. Continue reading

The Woman in Black

Momentum Pict./CBS Films (2012) 95 min. PG-13

Director: James Watkins

Screenplay: Jane Goldman; based on The Woman in Black by Susan Hill 

Cinematography: Tim Maurice-Jones; Editing: Jon Harris

Production Design: Kave Quinn; Set Decoration: Niamh Coulter

Costumes: Keith Madden

Score: Marco Beltrami

Stars: Daniel Radcliffe (Arthur Kipps), Ciarán Hinds (Sam Daily), Janet McTeer (Mrs. Daily), Liz White (Jennet), Sophie Stuckey (Stella Kipps), Misha Handley (Joseph Kipps), Jessica Raine (Nanny)

Standard-issue spook fare that never amounts to much but is still promisingly atmospheric in spots, distinguished by its unusual, turn of the century setting. Many horror movies are set in old dark houses, few on the other hand are set in the old, dark superstitious past itself which is odd since, for all our Amityville Horrors, I imagine most people still tend to psychologically associate ghosts and haunted houses with the Victorian past. The primary distinction of The Woman in Black lies in its being placed in that transitory time-frame when the horse and buggy era was making way for the mechanized age of the automobile. Continue reading