Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Keepin' The Peak: Movies To Watch Before/After "Crimson Peak"

So, the movie that was #1 on my most anticipated list for 2015 finally came out, and its name is Crimson Peak. Directed by Guillermo del Toro, this gothic romance has truly taken my heart, buried it into a pile of frills, melodramatic acting, Tom Hiddleston hotness, and everything else that peaks my spoopy interest this Halloween season. But incase you haven't seen the film, or are curious to see more films related to Crimson Peak, I thought I'd come up with a list of sorts (inspired by my friend Cinema Doll's blog post) to help satisfy your cinematic cravings.

Now, onto the list, in no particular order.... 

Death Takes A Holiday (1934)

As I have confessed on many an occasion, I am a huge fan of actor Fredric March. He has always been the classic movie hero with a certain edge of his persona. Charming, mysterious, romantic, and yet slightly creepy at times in many of his roles, March always gave fantastic, layered performances that would stand the test of time. One of the films that is always forgotten in many retrospectives of the actor is also the one that introduced me to him: Death Takes A Holiday. 

Death tells the story of a young woman named Grazia, who one night sees a ghostly spirit in front of her. Suddenly, the rest of her relatives and loved ones seem to take notice to this strange occurrence, particularly her father, Duke Lambert, who is visited by this same ghoulish being later on that evening. It turns out that this is Death, coming to ask the Duke if he can take residence within his home for a three-day holiday. The Duke eventually accepts, which leads Death to take on a human form of a mysterious prince, and things just get all kinds of romantic and crazy from there. 

Many will read this description and cry, "But Dalin! Isn't that the same movie Brad Pitt was in that seemed like a bunch of soap opera garbage?" Well yes, dear reader, Meet Joe Black is a remake of Death Takes A Holiday, but in comparison, is truly a piece of cinematic trash. It seeps all the romance and gothic creepiness from the original and forms it into 90's basic filmmaking at its "best". 

What I love about this film is that the romance between Grazia and Death is beyond enchanting. Granted, the movie has a very short running time, and so there isn't a ton of room for development between the two leads. But when they are together on screen, the chemistry between them is so electric, you can't take your eyes off of the pair. Particularly the scene in the garden near the end of the film always gives me those romantic goosebumps. So many feels, trust me. 

Rebecca (1940)

Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca is easily my favorite film from his historic filmography. It features everything I love about his craft, but at the same time feels very different from the 50's and 60's films he would be known for later on in his career. The story of Rebecca, based on a book written by Daphne du Maurier, is the now common tale of poor girl meets handsome man, falls for him, marries him, and moves to his creepy house, were spooky things indeed happen. Sound familiar? It should, since Rebecca was sighted as an inspiration to del Toro when he created Crimson Peak, and it definitely shows on screen.

The biggest homage to Rebecca in Crimson, comes through in the character of Lucille Sharp. From her clothes and hairstyle, to the way she watches Thomas and Edith together, Lucille owes a lot to Rebecca's Ms. Danvers, who in my mind stands as one of the greatest movie villains of all time. Played by the immortal Judith Anderson, Mrs. Danvers is a force that hovers over the majority of the film, and even when she isn't shown on screen, her presence is felt, almost creating a sense of paranoia within the viewer. She may be just a simple housekeeper, but she doesn't take her job lightly, and will make you fear the sound of house keys clinking together. 

Creepy, well paced, and beautifully acted/directed, Rebecca is a classic for a reason, and no matter how much time passes, it never loses its unique ability to put you on the edge of your seat. 

Mary Reilly (1996)

In all honesty, Mary Reilly is sort of a guilty pleasure for me. It really isn't a "great" film by any true standards, but there is something about it that keeps bringing me back to its world of bizarre romance, creepy imagery, and one of my favorite over-the-top Glenn Close performances. And then there is also John Malkovich, who somehow saves every awful movie and makes it, at the very least, a piece of exaggerated entertainment. And because it is a retelling of my favorite horror story, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I am somehow always attracted to this otherwise B-level cinematic experience.

Mary Reilly is the story of a housemaid (played by Julia Roberts) who comes to serve Dr. Jekyll (Malkovich). The two instantly bound and start a friendship that quickly becomes something more. At the same time, Mary's new friend seems to be suffering from some sort of illness, one that is related to his mysterious and violent assistant, Mr. Hyde, who is also extremely attracted to Mary. The rest of the movie plays out like some sort of ultra violent soap opera, with all the blood and guts you could want out of such a story. But somehow, underneath all the weird directorial choices, dated CGi effects, and horror tropes, the duo of Roberts and Malkovich make the material at least interesting to digest, and ultimately deliver a cool, creepy take on the horror classic. 

Phantom of the Opera (1989)

Though I've talked about this movie on a couple of other lists at this point, I will always have something to say about the 1989 version of The Phantom of the Opera.  Why? Because it includes all my favorite entertaining things. For one, it stars Robert Englund, who is easily one of my favorite (if not my number one) horror actor of all time, in the role he was born to play. There is a hilarious time travel subplot, that truly makes no sense within the traditional structure of Phantom, but somehow is still hella entertaining. And of course, there is gore, hilarious one liners, and all the gothic horror romantic fluff that makes me instantly love a movie from start to finish. 

Is it actually the best traditional version of Phantom? No, this ain't Andrew Llyod Webber or Gaston Leroux, darling. Instead, this is a violent piece of hilarious B-Movie charm, that just happens to have one of the greatest horror movie actors of all time in the lead role, making him my favorite on-screen Phantom for sure. The movie also manages to make some pretty interesting changes (aside from the time travel aspect) to the original Leroux tale, particularly the backstory for Eric. Instead of him being burned in a fire or born deformed, he signs a contract with the devil to make his music live forever, but in exchange, no one would ever love him for anything other than his music (Spoiler Alert: now he ugly.) This makes him seem the most tragic of all the movie Phantoms, and definitely the most interesting. 

So if you're in the mood for a fun, spooky, romantic, but cheesy Phantom adventure, this will definitely get you in the Gothic Romantic feels. 

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

For another famous Horror film adaptation, this one easily goes down as my favorite incarnation of a certain story about a blood sucking prince of the night. Yep, Coppola's version of Dracula still always gets me right in my 90's formed heart. Maybe it is the casting of such greats as Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder, or the absolutely stunning costume design by Eiko Ishioka, or the inventive cinematography by Michael Ballhaus, but something about this particular version, even with all its strange flaws (I'm looking at you, Keanu!) it still captures my imagination and heart every time. 

I think there is something to be said when you finally get to see a character brought to his full dramatic potential by both such a talented creative team and such a brilliant actor, like Oldman. In previous versions of Dracula, I always thought the character was just there for cheap spooks and to find an excuse for a gore fest, when I always thought he was meant to be so much more. But then this movie came along, and fulfilled all my wildest, Victorian Gothic dreams. Particularly the scene where Mina and Dracula are at dinner, and her tears turn to diamonds, always got to me in the best way possible. 

Giving you the appropriate spooky levels, romantic levels, and gore levels, 1992 Dracula definitely pairs with Crimson Peak like a fine wine with a perfectly crafted cheese. 

So these are just a few of my picks, but there are plenty more where that came from! Hopefully with Crimson Peak sparking people's interest in the Gothic Romance genre, we can have more new movies to include on the shelf next to the goodies on this list. 

Think I'm missing anything from this list? Comment below with your favorites, or your thoughts on Crimson Peak? And if you're curious to know my thoughts on the film, you can click here for my review on The Daily Geekette


Ginngi Doll said...

Ooo I love this, I have so much to add to my list!

Blog | www.thecinemadoll.com



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