Crimson Peak and Goodnight, Mommy Explore Different Shades of Horror

Horror freaks rejoice! For those who want to indulge in the gore, splatter, and agony of watching horror films, there’s a glut of them right now. It’s rare to see reasonably good horror films, especially back to back. Well, it happened, somewhat. . .  After paying a sufficiently large amount of money for the IMAX “experience” at the Atlantic Station theater for a showing of Crimson Peak, I anticipated astonishment.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro, Crimson Peak stars Mia Wasikowska, the Australian actress who has a knack for playing strong female characters in twisted, time-warped settings (as in Alice in WonderlandJane Eyre, and Stoker). Here she’s the prim Victorian-era maiden, Edith, who is aware that ghosts exist! Her attunement with ghostly things is made clear from the beginning. For starters, her mother’s ghost frequently haunts her, issuing the recurring warning: “Beware of Crimson Peak.” The ghosts in this film are gruesome with exposed body cavities, but the CGI is distracting. They are more like props than an actual threat to the characters. Del Toro fans will be ecstatic to see that he hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to wondrous set design, costumes, and special effects.

As the story builds, she meets the dreadfully handsome Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his ominous—yet titillating—sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Through an unforeseen plot twist, Edith marries Sharpe and moves to an isolated England shore with Lucille. There she inhabits an enormous mansion with a massive hole in the ceiling. When it’s snowing, it falls beautifully in the foyer and looks cinematically enticing. Crimson Peak is a reference to the red clay underneath the house, but more precisely, its ability to make the film appear bloodier. Chastain’s performance as the stoic and manipulative Lucille, reminiscent of Angelina Jolie’s Lisa from Girl, Interrupted, was the only force keeping me intrigued. The film grew tiresome as it went on. It felt too obvious; nothing was frightening, though a marvel to look at. Crimson Peak finds strength in fascinating visuals but its loopy foreshadowing detracts it from being a gem. 

After I left the theater that night, mostly unsatisfied, I rode past the marquee at Midtown Art Cinema and noticed that Goodnight, Mommy was showing. This may be a case where I didn’t Google a full list of films playing but I was pretty upset that I missed out on seeing this instead. So, I made it my mission to see it the following weekend. Goodnight, Mommy, an Austrian horror flick, is a gorgeously shot macabre fest directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. The film’s equally eerie trailer made the rounds late this summer. Instantly, I was enamored. 

Though a lot is revealed in that trailer alone, the film contains plenty of surprises. The plot is tricky: a mother returns home to her twin boys after some facial reconstruction procedures that leave her bandaged and moody. The twins like to play in the forest, collect insects, and take baths together. She wants peace and quiet. They live in the countryside in a modern house decorated by enigmatic art of blurred feminine figures. Something is off-kilter. Whether it’s the creepy sound of window blinds being drawn, or the crawling noise of beetles—the film’s effectiveness lies in its use of sound to make you cringe. To coincide with the great sound design, something that struck me as unique about the film was that it switches perspective between victim and monster. As an audience member you can’t quite figure out with which to identify, or if you even want to. Not only is Goodnight, Mommy exceptionally well made, but it’s also fantastically disturbing. That’s something I’ve been missing in contemporary horror films.

If you want to be engrossed by a grandiose over-the-top set piece or a marvelously captured, tormenting, and excruciating art film, go see Crimson Peak and/or Goodnight, Mommy. Both films are must-sees for different reasons. Crimson Peak is not horrible; it is somewhat illusive, but there is substance. Goodnight, Mommy was more visceral with a subversive narrative that will leave you in awe moments after it concludes. To all the horror fans out there, I know it’s Halloween and we all have plans this weekend, but I highly suggest going out to see a scary movie! I know the latter will suffice.

Joey Molina is a body genres aficionado that enjoys cupcakes and donuts.