All the reasons you should watch ‘Crimson Peak’

Are you a horror film fan? It doesn’t matter. You should probably go watch watch Crimson Peak. The film, after all, is both a ghost story with some classic suspense/horror/slasher elements and something else entirely. Here are a number of good (spoiler-filled) reasons why:

1. Those three little words every woman loves to hear: gothic horror romance. Do you like films where female protagonists trail around with perfectly pre-raphaelite hair holding candelabras in the middle of the night? I do. I like them even better when those heroines are accompanied by tiny dogs who warn them when the ghosties are getting close.

I was really worried the whole time that she was going to set her hair on fire.
I was really worried the whole time that she was going to set her hair on fire.

2. Do you like films whose directors (in this case, Guillermo del Toro) have said, ‘In this film, I tried to make every man useless’? I do. There’s a lot of debate around the interwebs about just how ‘feminist’ Crimson Peak is. I don’t think it’s beyond feminist critique, but it is sooooo much better than most films. To wit:

  • The real conflict in the film is between two women and it ends in a bloody, knock-down, drag-out, shovel-to-the-head brawl
  • The ghosts are almost exclusively women who — we find out — are working to help, warn, and defend the protagonist (Edith Sharpe née Cushing, played by Mia Wasikowska)
  • Edith is an aspiring novelist (think: mash up between Jo March and Jane Eyre) whose role model is Mary Fucking Shelley. She prefers Shelley to Jane Austen because Shelley ‘died a widow’. (At the end of the film, notably, Edith is a widow and…not dead!)
  • At one point Love Interest Dude suggests that Edith close her eyes to dispel her anxiety about dancing in public. She responds, ‘I don’t want to close my eyes. I want to keep them open.’
  • Edith gets help from dudes, this is true: her father, her friends, even the ghost of her dead scumbag husband. But I think that actually the ‘Strong Female Character Who Needs Nothing and Nobody’ whilst a perfect acceptable trope, is probably not the only feminist protagonist out there. This film is part coming-of-age story, too: Edith learns when and where she can trustingly accept the help of others, or not.
  • Allerdale Hall (creepy haunted house) is in Exotic Cumberland and situated atop a hill of blood-red clay which is mined for bricks. It lends a bright red colour which is obviously supposed to remind the viewer of blood in a very unsubtle, Carrie-ish kind of way. When Edith starts getting her light-coloured garments stained in mud/blood, it’s always a sign that she’s growing up, learning something or figuring something out — basically, progressing as a character.

3. I suppose I should admit that Love Interest Dude is played by Tom Hiddleston, whose voice, figure and SMOULDERING LOOKS need no introduction if you are a living, breathing man-attracted human living in the West in the early 21st century. Other Love Interest Dude Stuck In Friendzone is played by Charlie Hunnam, who does a truly awful American accent and is far too blonde to be my thing, but maybe he’s yours, idk.

Not Quite Love Interest (aka Love Interest Dude’s Incestuous Sister) is played by Jessica Chastain, who is gorgeous and gets all the High Goth costumes.

Wear sunscreen.
Wear sunscreen, is all I’m saying.

4. The cinematography is lush. The colour palettes are exaggerated and wonderful, leading the viewer into familiar horror territory. Coupled with the intentionally archaic yet crystal-clear dialogue, it’s as if you’re watching an old black-and-white film from the mid 20th century which has been colour-ified.

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There’s a hole in the roof p.s. it’s gonna up your heating bill

5. This film is like an adaptation of a novel-love-child of A. S. Byatt and China Miéville.

6. Here, you can print your own playing cards.

cp5
Only women are allowed candelabras, soz.

7. There’s a blizzard! Blizzards make Erin happy.

Blizzards and waistcoats.
Blizzards and waistcoats.

8. Edith is the only one who gets to wear a cape. Like a boss.

cp7

9. This film is, at times, unintentionally hilarious. The way in which it employs the ‘Hard-working American tells off slimy, lazy landed aristocrat Brit’ trope is completely OTT. Also, I couldn’t help but see a massive running joke about the awful state of some houses in Britain, particularly Victorian-era houses. Sinking into the ground? Check. Pipes that rattle and produce muddy water? Check. Reasonably friendly kitchen in which to forget the general dread of the rest of the house? Check. TEA EVERYWHERE which may or may not be poisonous? Check.

tea, letters, and the zoom-in of impending doom
tea, letters, and the zoom-in of impending doom

10. Look, there’s a bible verse above the hearth!

Psalm 121.1a, FYI
Psalm 121.1a, FYI

11. Nick Cave and PJ Harvey wrote a cover of song ‘Red Right Hand‘ for the film trailer. I am never quite sure how I feel about super contemporary-sounding trailer music for period film trailers, but I will let Nick Cave and PJ Harvey get away with pretty much anything.

If those 11 things haven’t convinced you to go see this film, I’m not sure what will. Just go see it. You won’t regret it, I promise.

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11 MOAR Super Bowl ads, reviewed

More commercials!

 

1. Rihanna promo

So…this is not a Super Bowl commercial, strictly speaking. But I’m starting off this post with it because Colbert! I started off doubtful, especially that bit where Rihanna’s oh-so-high-heels weren’t sinking in to the (clearly green-screened) football stadium astroturf. But then STEPHEN COLBERT showed up as the ref and since he can do no wrong, I = happy.

Colbert Report: I am America (And So Can You!)

Validity: Nil: Not actually debuted during the Super Bowl

Grade: n/a, but aren’t you glad I included it?

 

2. The Hulk vs Ant Man

It’s like a comic book waiting to happen. (Has it already happened?) Two Superheroes duel over Coca-Cola, providing that it is just as addictive as the drug that gave it its name. Also: superhero (b)romance moment: ‘You have the greenest eyes…’ . Decent special effects. A bit too ‘Honey I Shrunk The Kids’, IMHO.

Nerd points: many

Feel good factor: notable

Grade: B +

 

3. Man buns

I cannot be the only person in the world who hears ‘man buns’ and does not think of the kind that sit on top of hipsters’ heads, can I?

Sorry, Taco Bell. Your addictively delicious spanglish Quesalupas might be great, but I don’t think you’re gonna top man buns. Or Tinder, or that Texas Lawyer Dude, or Drones, or Driverless Cars, or Virtual Reality, the Mars Landing, Aliens, James Harden’s Beard, skateboard-why-they-call-those-hoverboard thingies (What are they??), or Football (even ‘REAL FOOTBALL’ OH SNAP OH SNAP). Or anything else.

Clever wordplay making a 1.30 minute commercial seem  much shorter than it is: impressive

Self-referential internet humor factor: tedious.

Grade: B –

 

4. Those three little words every woman loves to hear:

All day breakfast‘. McDonalds tries to write a Dr Seuss poem about it, basically.

Poetic form: reasonable effort

Health factor: This is McDonalds, right?

Grade: C +

 

5. The Grand Budapest Terminator

AHHHNOLD. Is he doing the voice of the main character of this video game or something? This was an appropriately brief commercial which was basically an action film with shades of Wes Anderson. I can cope with that.

Explosions: MANY.  (Also, tanks: one).

Length / pacing: Superlative.

Grade: B

 

6. Dan and Alec laugh at themselves, Jason Schwartzman has long hair/

If I had a nickel for every time a computer-interface had a sexy name like ‘Alexa’ and a woman’s voice — thereby reinforcing the notion of women as subservient, manipulable objects — I’d be rich. The tit-for-tat between Dan Marino and Alec Baldwin was proper banter, though, innit. Also, Missy Elliot, you’re not Beyonce but I heart you.

Sci-fi points: Rich dudes gonnna have fancy house shit.

Amazon points: negatory honcho, Amazon = not great.

Grade: C

 

7. So…Butterfingers are…bold, right?

Some Super Bowl commercials are just inane. They probably get slotted in at the ‘most likely to go use the bathroom’ points in the game. This is one of them.  (The plot of this commercial: Cowboy paratrooper eats candy.)

Animal welfare factor: WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT BEAUTIFUL BOVINE??

Repetition of the same word: too many times

Grade: D –

 

8. Prius car chase

Dear Toyota, you’re just not going to convince all of America that the Prius is cool. It’s sensible, fairly environmentally friendly, and perhaps someday will be within Americans’ budgets; it is not a Bond car. Over and out.

Hilarious piss-take of middle-class appropriation of Buddhism factor: successful!

Realistic bank robbers factor: zero

Grade: B

 

9. Win from within

Right. A Gatorade commercial that does not involve Super Bowl footage of a tank of Gatorade being poured over winning team members’ or coaches heads is, in my opinion, deficient. This one is all ‘motivational video definitely shot so it could potentially be meaningful if the underdog wins this football game’.

Drenchage factor: inexcusable lack of Gatorade drenchage!

Voice-over quality factor: this dude should do film trailers, particularly ones that begin with ‘in a world…’

Grade: B –

 

10.  DOGS

Lots of Americans are obsessed with dogs. This commercial combines middle-class aspirations with cute yellow labradors, and appeals mostly to exhausted (middle-class) parents who resort to driving around in the middle of the night in the hopes their DEMON SPAWN WILL GO THE F**K TO SLEEP.

But there’s a puppy! factor: Awwwww

Inoffensive/bland background music: puppy lullaby

Grade: B + (I’m a sucker for puppies)

 

11. Owwwwwww

Doritos takes the gutsy move of making their Super Bowl commercial with that most female of themes: pregnancy! But wait for it… Oh, Right. The baby leaps out of the womb to the get the Dorito the man’s munching on annoyingly during the ultrasound. Because men aren’t the ones that cause problems; women dealing with men are the ones who cause problems.

Bob Wehadababyitsaboy factor: who cares? that baby LOVES DORITOS

Horrified ultrasound tech face: priceless

Grade: C –

 

12. Just gonna leave this here: it was better than all the commercials combined.

Grade: Beyoncé has no use for your silly grades.

 

12 Superbowl ads, reviewed

It’s the Monday after the Super Bowl and I am writing about what’s usually the best part of the Super Bowl, namely, the commercials! (or, if you’re in Britain, the ‘ads’.) Only 12 here…more to come if I have the time to write about them.

1 . Weiner stampede

Starting off on a strong foot. Heinz’s dachshunds-dressed-as-hotdogs (the rhythm of which is reminiscent of Jackie, Dressed in Cobras) rush towards humans-dressed-as-condiments, with light ballad in the background.

Cute factor: significant.

Coherence: typical for the Super Bowl; that is, not much.

Grade: A –

 

2. We don’t make Jeep. You do.

Earnest piano solo, over which plays a slightly amateurish slideshow of black-and-white photos of various people, including some celebrities, and a few Jeeps (which it was advertising). ‘We don’t make Jeep. You do.’ at the end.

Length: too long!

Nostalgia factor: high if you’ve ever owned a Jeep, because they’re great.

Grade: C

 

3. ‘merican workers

THAT’S RIGHT. THEY DON’T OUTSOURCE ANYTHING. (The NYer described this commercial’s “uplifting jingoism” which is a bit harsh but whatever.) Also, WTF is ‘WeatherTech’? I have been away from ‘merica long enough to have no idea what it is.

Feel-good factor: high.

Racial representation: surprisingly good.

Grade: B –

 

4. Super Bowl Babies

Awww what the hell is this nonsense? Cute kids singing…about their own conception?  Can I just say: given the amount of beer and bean-and-cheese-related items most heterosexual couples have consumed during any given Super Bowl, I am astounded that these kids exist at all.  Basically this is a Seal music video, not a commercial.

Cute factor: mild, before you remember this is just weird.

Length: OVER THREE MINUTES GIVE ME A BREAK.

Grade: D + (I’m not failing it because hey, getting all those kids together is impressive.)

 

5. Avocados

Personally, I don’t think that avocados need their own commercial. They are vegetables, people. And Americans especially don’t need help reminding that they eat things perpetually out of season. BUT I DIGRESS.  This commercial was a bit of sci-fi hilarity: aliens are walking around the ‘museum of Earth’.  I especially cracked up at the ‘They had chia pets, just like we do’ and ‘this is the dress (blue and black??) that caused a civil war.’ Also, a winning slapstick Doctor Who reference at the end.

Diversity factor: all sorts of alien (though mostly quite humanoid) life forms!

Hilarity: yeah it was funny, in a self-referential, internet-obsessed kind of way.

Grade: A

 

6. Get a mortgage…with your phone?

Um, I was unsure about this one. A mix up of Edward Scissorhands, Cabaret, The Magician’s Apprentice and an IKEA showroom. Selling…mortgages? Huh.

Dystopia factor: high, plus everyone is completely hooked into their phones already, so.

Background music: lamentable muzak/rock beat.

Grade: C

 

7. NO. JUST NO.

Puppymonkeybaby is basically my idea of a hashtag gone #soveryverywrong. Make that, the English language gone so very, very wrong. The concept of this ‘Mountain Dew Kickstart: Dew, [Grapefruit] Juice, and Caffeine’ is also WRONG. It reminds me of going to the pizzeria as a child, going up to the pop machine with all your friends and putting a little of each drink in one of those dubious red plastic cups. This combination was called ‘a suicide’ and was the adolescent virgin equivalent of a Long Island Iced Tea. JUST NO.

Weird factor: THERE IS A CREATURE THAT IS PART PUPPY, PART MONKEY, PART BABY dancing around, followed by three grown men.

Tastebud effect: death.

Surreal-ness and Catchiness: unfortunately, I think, quite high.

Grade: C-

 

8.  Masculinitysofragile

Budweiser continues its attempts at reifying American DudeBro Masculinity. “Not Ponies. Not a Hobby. Not Small. Not Sipped. Not Soft. Not Imported. Not A Fruit Cup. Not Following. Not For Everyone. Not Backing Down.”   I mean, to be fair, that’s kind of the Super Bowl in a nutshell.

Just so tired of Teh Men!!1!  factor: high.

Cinematography: actually very impressive.

Grade: B –

 

9. Queen Helen of Fuckinfantastica?

Aaaaaand then Budweiser tried to appeal to the classier of the species by featuring Helen Mirren, who (yeah right) drinks Budweiser in posh restaurants, in a very clipped accent berating people who drive drunk.  And there’s an in-joke about Americans liking our beer cold (as opposed to the Brits who drink room-temperature ale).

Oh no she di-int factor: ‘If your brain was donated to science, science would return it.’

But why does Bud get so many ads? factor: yeah, exactly. But it’s a good message, this one.

Grade: B

 

10. Granny’s doing yoga

People doing impressive things with their bodies probably gonna need painkillers. Liiiike…Advil!

Impressive footage factor: high

Big Pharma factory: unfortunately high indeed

Grade: D –

 

11. ‘Sweetheart, don’t look at me like that’.

Willem Dafoe as Marilyn Monroe. Is there anything else more perfect in the universe? It’s nice to see Snickers’ usual  ‘Hangry = Diva’ schtick making use of a male diva.

WILLEM DAFOE: YES

The (hanger) struggle is real effect: high

Grade: A –

 

12. Women playing football

Well, at least these Victoria Secret model have football gear on as they sultrily sway. Clearly the ‘Football is for hot girls, too, right??!’ ad of the night.

Sexy factor: medium.

Sexism factor: Women playing football with a significant does of male gaze.

Grade: C +