Crimson Peak Directed by: Guillermo del Toro Written by: Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Charlie Hunnam
Warning: Spoilers throughout
Don’t worry, it’s just clay. Red clay. Seeping up through the ground. They’re trying to mine it for some reason, this tall, pale, handsome man and his quiet, pale, sharp sister. Almost as quickly as Edith (Mia Wasikowska) arrives at their English estate, before she can grow accustomed to their decaying mansion and its many time-frozen rooms, winter comes. All of the sudden there is snow everywhere, outside and coming in through a hole in the ceiling and collecting by the main staircase. The red clay keeps seeping and mixing with it. There’s a morbid sight outside now, probably the best way imaginable to keep kids off your lawn.
Edith goes there out of love and desperation. She’s whisked away from America by Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) almost immediately after her father’s murder. She gets upset when a doctor friend (Charlie Hunnam) tries to examine her dad’s caved in skull for signs of foul play. She’ll be thankful for his inquisitiveness later, but during her father’s funeral she all but ignores him, staring into the distance with her head pressed into Sharpe’s chest. His sister is already back in England, waiting for them.
The Conjuring Directed by: James Wan Written by: Chad Hayes & Carey Hayes (screenplay) Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston
The Conjuring is a legitimately frightening movie without taking the gory (i.e. easy) way out. It is at once an ode to ’70s horror like The Exorcist or Suspiria and a clever subversion of the modern “found footage” sub-genre. The movie is so well-edited and pieced together that other people in the theater I was in shrieked and squirmed in an almost equally convincing manner as the characters.
There are two main families at play here, though the Perrons do a bulk of the screaming. They are a beacon of working class stability, and director James Wan makes it quite clear from the beginning how temporary that is for them as they take up residence in a secluded old house. He stalks the parents and their five daughters through the moving-in process, giving us a sense of their familial rituals while also hinting at how the script (by Chad and Carey Hayes) will later use that against them. ,
Let Me In Directed by: Matt Reeves Written by: Matt Reeves (screenplay), John Ajvide Lindqvist (book) Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, and Elias Koteas
Cinema purists (this one included) were dreading the inevitable day they would have to sit through an American remake to the beloved Swedish film Let the Right One In. It was the vampire movie that didn’t suck, and we’d be damned if Hollywood was going to take that away from us with a big budget redo with A-list stars. Some watchers would never let this one in; never consider the possibility that it could be good. They’d be missing out.
As it turns out, Let Me In is a surprisingly competent remake of the excellent Swedish version. Like so many other films, this one originated in literature, though the films are more widely known. Matt Reeves, known mostly for Cloverfield, takes the story from Sweden to Reagan-era New Mexico. A seemingly odd choice, but setting it in a desert during winter effectively recreates the barren Swedish landscape so vital to the mood of the original.
The House of the Devil Directed by: Ti West Written by: Ti West Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, and Greta Gerwig
When someone is credited as the writer, director, and editor of a low budget horror flick, some recognition from the audience is due. Not only has this person decided to make a film on the cheap in one of the cheapest modern genres, but they put their name forward for sole responsibility should it completely tank. Unfortunately, writer/director Ti West must take that with The House of the Devil.
Filmed like a movie from the 80s, which is when it is set, The House of the Devil recreates the time period effectively through the use of music and hair styles. There is nothing else in the way of setting though, as we follow Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) on her adventures in Satanic babysitting.
Samantha is an absolutely pure, sympathetic character. She is fighting her way through college on her own and has just procured an apartment to live on her own away from her awful roommate. Scraping by is something she seems to know a lot about, but she seems happy nonetheless. The movies tell us, though, that she must suffer.