I’m typically not a horror movie fan and with an overactive imagination, the slightest thing can scare me. I’m the kind of person who will hear a car door slam a little too close to my house and think that there’s going to be a home invasion in which I die a most brutal death.
I had seen a couple trailers when I was sending them to a friend I wanted to see the movie with and though some parts were terrifying by my standards, I was intrigued by the period in which it was set and the general aesthetics of the movie. Of course it helped that Tom Hiddleston was in it, but that’s besides the point.
In many ways, as a writer, I relate very closely to Edith Cushing especially about adding romantic fiction, not being taken seriously as a woman and so on (I’m sure she has it a lot worse than I do with the gender equality thing though), although at times she seems quite unreasonable (almost whiny), but maybe that was just due to her upbringing. Obviously I shouldn’t make assumptions, but it’s close enough to the Victorian era for me to know a thing or two about mannerisms of the time (yeah, thanks Jane Austen, that’s probably the only thing I learned from you). Edith’s writing, much like mine, is fictional, but retains elements that can be autobiographical.There is much to admire in Edith’s character. She is strong and vocal about her opinions, but still retains characteristics of a proper gentlewoman. In her writing she wants to be taken seriously, but with a ghost story void of romance, she cannot for she is a woman and women ought to write stories of domestic bliss and sitting room dramas. The ghosts, she insists are metaphorical, but the audience knows that ghosts are real or at least they do by the movie’s end. And I guess she kind of did get her wish; she will die a Mary Shelley rather than a Jane Austen, though I did see her more as a Shelley than an Austen anyways.
From the moment we meet the Sharpe siblings, you know something’s up. It’s just a very cliched storyline: a family home in ruin, a fortune squandered, two “siblings,” meeting (think Sherlock Holmes’ The Hound of the Baskervilles, one of the stories told to Miss Marple in Tuesday Club Murders) and marrying someone who comes from money, that sort of thing. You know where it’s going, but Guillermo del Toro surprises us all. In writing I’ve learned that there are no new ideas, only new ways to combine these ideas. I assume film is very much the same and de Toro did so brilliantly. It’s not the kind of horror you’d expect with jump scares and a lot of blood and gore, though I can assure you that some of the ghosts are plenty scary and that I had my fill of blood and gore. However, what I did know was that Edith would be the exception to everything. There’s no point to make a movie in which she just becomes another body buried in the crimson clay that is found under Allerdale Hall. In that way I knew that Thomas Sharpe would truly fall in love with her and try to protect her from Lucille and die trying to protect her. Those things made the movie cliched, but in a good way. These were things I expected and kept me from completely losing my shit over the appearances of the ghosts. The only time I wasn’t afraid was when she found out who the one ghost in particular was and at that point all I felt was pity. The stories of the women Sir Thomas wedded and murdered was just as intriguing to me as the story that was being laid out before me. As expected, there was a romance between Thomas and Lucille, however, what was unexpected was that they really were siblings involved in an incestuous relationship. At times, when I watch movies or read books that includes relationships like these it makes me think about the mentality of the director and of the audience. In a way, the director creates a masterpiece according the demands of the audience and capturing the latent taboo fantasies of some. And essentially that’s what a gothic romance is like. Like the aesthetes and decadents of the 1890s, the repressed sexuality mentioned by Freud, and the concept of Victorian morality, these are themes that linger in this genre. And like these concepts, this movie has so many levels of complexity, each hiding another secret. I go to movies for the same reason I read books or play video games: to temporarily suspend reality and indulge in stories of the fantastical. Movies like these allow us to explore the darker side of human nature and discover things about ourselves that we don’t quite know or understand.
In the end, Sir Thomas become more of a man than he’s ever been, standing up to his sister and dying for his love. In speaking of love, we cannot ignore the scene in which Sir Thomas and Edith consummate their marriage. I won’t get into this too much, but in many ways it is unconventional in the sense of typical sex scenes in “Hollywood” movies. Usually in Hollywood movies, it is the sexuality of the woman who is played up and she is exploited and put on display, but in this movie, it is the male who exposes himself and puts himself on display, so a bit of a role reversal is refreshing.
It’s been a while since a movie has touched me so, even if it did scare the bejebers out of me and that I watched the movie in different levels so to speak (watching like a normal person, watching through my scarf, watching half the screen with half my face stuffed into my scarf, watching the top left or top right or just top of strip of the screen as covered by my scarf, or just face buried in scarf). Just as Edith intended the ghosts in her novel to represent her past, I felt as though the crimson clay splattered across the snow (which I think is the one of the most beautiful images ever) was a metaphor for all the blood that has been spilt at Allerdale Hall. This movie also had some funny moments. The one that comes to mind is Lucille’s death. Lucille tells Edith that she won’t stop until either she is dead or she kills Edith, Edith then distracts her by pointing out Thomas’ ghost lingering behind her before hitting her with a shovel. Lucille falls and repeats that she won’t stop until she is dead or she kills Edith and Edith smashes her head in with the shovel saying “I heard you the first time.” At this part I laughed out loud and I have to say this was one of my favourite scenes in the movie.
I can’t say that I’d watch this movie again simply because I don’t think I’d be able to sleep if I watched it. And I kind of wish that the people a few rows back would stop making a commentary on the entire movie (saying ouch when Lucille gets hit in the face with a shovel, making gaspy noises when ghosts are about to appear, etc). Overall, great movie, amazing aesthetics, an interesting twist on a conventional story line. I guess you could say, this movie was my kind of messed up. 8/10.