Tag Archives: fairy tale

Crimson Peak – Review

20 Oct

Has Guillermo del Toro ever done any wrong? Maybe just once, but he continues a streak of interesting and beautiful films with Crimson Peak. Let me just get something out of the way here. This film is nothing like what you may think it’s going to be based on the trailers and the other advertising done for it. What this film actually is is a Hammeresque fairy tale brought to you by one of the masters of the fantastical, Guillermo del Toro. Is Crimson Peak perfect? Absolutely not, in fact it’s one of this film makers weaker movies, but it’s still a good means of escape.

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As a young girl, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) was warned by the ghost of her mother, “Beware of Crimson Peak.” Some fourteen years later, Edith is all grown up and aspiring to be a writer of ghost stories. Her life starts going through a major change when she meets Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), an English baronet who came to America to raise money for a new machine he has designed. After someone close to Edith dies under mysterious circumstances, she marries Sharpe and moves to his family’s mansion in England where he lives with his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Both of the Sharpes begin acting a lot differently to Edith once she arrives. Not only that, but she begins getting visited by ghosts in the night who suffer from all sorts of physical deformities. Obviously, not everything is what it seems which reminds Edith once again of he dead mother’s mysterious warning.

The closest movie in del Toro’s filmography that I can compare Crimson Peak to is Pan’s Labyrinth, although it’s not nearly as epic as del Toro’s masterpiece. Like I said, this film is not exactly what you or I would call a modern horror film. There are horror elements to the story, but this mostly feels like a Grimm fairy tale told through the lens of del Toro working for Hammer Studios. That’s kind of a stretch in terms of descriptions, but that’s just how I see this movie. Edith’s last name is Cushing for heaven’s sake. Anyway, if you go into this film expecting to see a horror film or ghost story like Sinister or Insidious, you may be sorely disappointed.

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I’d love to say that Crimson Peak is a flawless movie, but that simply is not true. There are some aspects of this movie that really began to put me asleep in my seat. For one thing, the first half hour or so is excruciatingly boring. I get that it’s set up for everything that’s about to happen, but Edith’s character isn’t really interesting enough to make this part of the movie really anything special. There’s also the manner with which the ghosts are used in this movie. First of all, there were far too many jump scares. This film doesn’t need these cheap tricks. It’s already creepy enough. The ghosts also didn’t do as much as they were maybe intended to do. I loved their designs and how they moved, but I just wish their role in the story was tweaked a little bit so they could show off how cool they were some more.

Now let’s move on to what was awesome. First of all, this is a beautiful film with the best use of color I’ve seen this this year. The beautiful colors and the gorgeous costume and set design only add to my theory more that this is meant to be seen as a fairy tale and not a horror movie. The acting in this film is all fine too. Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska work well together and both really look and act the parts that they are trying to play. The real scene stealer in this movie though is Jessica Chastain. I’ve seen her in a lot of movies, but this may be my favorite performance of hers. It’s a side of her acting that I’ve never really seen before and I was really impressed. Finally, the whole movie just has a magical tone to it where things seem to float on air in some instances and crumble before your eyes the next. It’s hard to explain but it’s easy to lose yourself in the beauty of Crimson Peak.

While the advertising for Crimson Peak really blows the big one, the film itself does not. That being said, it’s far from being Guillermo del Toro’s best work and may even be one of his weakest in terms of storytelling and pacing. The film does succeed, however, in providing some legitimately cool scares, creating a creepy yet startlingly beautiful atmosphere, and telling an archetypical fairy tale. While Crimson Peak is a mild disappointment, I certainly wouldn’t mind revisiting it sooner rather than later.

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The City of Lost Children – Review

25 Nov

Every so often a movie comes around that goes way, way, way over the top with just about everything, and in The City of Lost Children it almost is enough to make you tired. Directors Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet completely blast your audio and visual senses. Anyone familiar with Jeunet’s other works like Delicatessen and Amélie may not be too surprised by this. This film is a milestone in terms of imagination and art direction, but it unfortunately lacks a little in the story department and all of the gizmos and what-have-yous often became distracting.

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The children of an unnamed port city all seem to disappearing one by one and all too quickly. No one knows why this is happening, but if they were to look out into the ocean they would find a rig where a mad scientist named Krank (Daniel Emilfork) has all of the children held captive. Krank’s plan is to use a device to extract the dreams of the children since he is unable to have any of his own. Meanwhile, a carnival strongman, One (Ron Perlman), sees his little brother get kidnapped to be taken to the rig. He soon joins forces with a little girl named Miette (Judith Vittet), an orphan who is also a member of a thieves’ guild. The two begin investigating the kidnappings which will ultimately lead to a showdown with the mad scientist, himself.

The plot of this movie is so stuffed, I feel like I’m leaving so much story information out. This is a two hour movie, but it could have easily gone on for four since there seemed to be just so much going. There’s a group of clones (all played by Dominique Pinon) who have a crazy backstory, conjoined twins that run the thieves’ guild, a tick with murderous powers of motivation, and a talking brain in a fish tank with speakers! WHERE CAN I EVEN BEGIN?! Like I said before, the imagination that went into making The City of Lost Children is mind blowing, but there’s so much there that the story sort of suffers.

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Every corner, every inch, every possible place for negative space in every scene is filled with some sort of gadget or device or weird looking person that there were times where I didn’t even know where to look. There is so much going, and I say that in one of the most extreme ways I could possibly say it. About half way through the movie, I started feeling like I was confused or missing something, but it turns out I was right on on pretty much all accounts. There’s just so many odd characters with different stories and contraptions that it all kind of detracted from the main story about a mad scientist kidnapping children to extract their dreams, which is cool enough. You don’t really need more than that, but this movie literally seems to have everything in it. This isn’t always a negative though.

As it stands, this movie is all about the style and art design which is beyond impressive. Being made in 1995, the film makers relied strongly on actual sets and practical special effects and make up. Much like John Carpenter’s The Thing, I would put The City of Lost Children on the movies that go above and beyond what is expected of special effects of the time. It all looks so amazing, and seems like it could possibly exist in some demented alternate reality. That’s really what watching this movie feels like. A step into a world that’s almost ours, but at the same time is completely different. It’s a modern day fairy tale.

You could compare this movie to the works of film makers like Guillermo del Toro, Terry Gilliam, or even David Lynch. Still, it has the names and style of Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet all over it. This is a really impressive film that is like nothing I’ve really seen before in terms of style, but as someone who loves a good story I was a little disappointed with the narrative. Don’t look at The City of Lost Children only as a story, but as a huge artistic achievement. With that in mind, this is a movie that is sure to make you gasp, laugh, and maybe even cringe.

A Tale of Two Sisters – Review

31 May

Fairy tales make good horror stories. In fact, they make great horror stories. Just think of most fairy tales that you know and then think of just how disturbing they really are, even though we have no problem telling them to children to teach them all sorts of lessons. In 2003, South Korean film maker Kim Ji-woon decided to make a psychological horror film based off the South Korean fairy tale Janghwa Hongryeon jeon, and since then it has been often labeled as one of the most unsettling films of our time and I can completely agree with that statement.

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Su-mi (Im Soo-jung) and her sister Su-yeon (Moon Geun-young) arrive at their lake house where their concerned father (Kim Kap-soo) and domineering step mother (Yeom Jeong-ah) are staying. The time spent there begins with their step mother berating them and only gets worse as time passes, despite Su-mi trying to tell her father how terrible she is to her and her sister. Su-mi and Su-yeon also become much more curious about their mother, who has since died, and this angers their step mother to the point of physical punishment. As the maternal torture continues between the two girls and the step mother, it is clear that there is something else much more sinister in the house that is making its presence known and making it clear that the two sisters have much more to think about and fear than their step mother.

What I love about A Tale of Two Sisters is the fact that this isn’t horror at it’s most traditional. There are a few times where things get spooky in a familiar way, but these aren’t the scenes that make this movie scary. What makes it so frightening is the constant feeling of confusion and dread that is felt throughout the entire movie. The situation that these girls are in is bad enough, but the fact that no one is there to help them makes it even worse. Finally, and I have to say this without spoiling anything, everything you think you know is happening is put to question as the movie reaches its mind bending climax and makes you rethink just how disturbed everyone in this family is.

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As with most of the South Korean movies that I’ve seen, this one keeps with the tradition of being beautiful to look at. Kim Ji-woon has earned fame with films like I Saw the DevilThe Good, the Bad, the Weird, and the American film The Last Stand. Obviously to earn international success like that, you have to have a good amount of talent and it shines completely in A Tale of Two Sisters. This is a beautiful movie to look at to the point where it would be just as entertaining to turn the sound off and just watch the images and the colors and how everything moves. Color really pop in this film and the often moving camera seems to just flow from scene to scene. Beautiful stuff, but also haunting.

Let me just use this time to rant at about how this is how horror movies should be made. It’s annoying to go into these kinds of movies now and expect jump scares that may freak you out for a second, but won’t last with you. When I see a horror movie, I want to think about why it was so terrible. I don’t want the film makers to tell me why. Audiences are smart enough to be able to watch a horror movie and have scares in it that aren’t obvious or loud, but legitimately frightening. That’s where A Tale of Two Sisters succeeds the most.

A Tale of Two Sisters is slow moving and quiet, but also one of the prettiest and most disturbing horror films that I have ever seen. What’s great about this movie isn’t quite the fear that you feel during the scariest parts, but rather it’s the uncomfortable feeling you have throughout the whole movie. Being able to create a feeling like that and hold it for an entire movie is something to commend and respect. I would easily put this film on a list of my favorite horror films, and it’s one that any horror buff shouldn’t miss out on.