9 – BLADE II
This was Del Toro’s first studio film after Mimic. This one is definitely more of a Del Toro film. It is also a better film…if not by much. Blade II follows the titular Marvel character as he teams up with the vampires he so proudly hunted before, to stop a new, far more dangerous species of vampire. One that feeds on the blood of vampires. It’s not a bad story, and as a follow-up to the first Blade – one of the most entertainingly silly action films of the ‘90’s – it’s a strong way to carry on the characters arc.
Del Toro’s style is on full form. The sets and action are spectacular, with every frame oozing Stoker and Lovecraft. Some of the action here is better than some of the action in The Matrix. And the acting is gloriously hammy – to be expected when your cast includes Wesley Snipes, Ron Perlman, Norman Reedus and Kris Kristofferson. But the highlight of the film is, of course, the vampires themselves. It’s easy to look at this new strain with awe – as we should. They are exceptionally well designed, with mouths that literally split open and thick, armoured chests. But I also love the regular vampires too. There is an excellent scene in a nightclub with imagery more grizzly than that of the first film. Moments like these must be seen to be believed.
But sadly, for all this films pros it is unfortunately, completely let down by David S Goyer’s script. I’ve never been a fan of Goyer. Credit where credit is due, the man has written some terrific films – Dark City, co-writer of The Dark Knight, and Blade of course – but more often than not his scripts feel like a hinderance to the films. The dialogue isn’t great and scenes feel like they jump rather than flow into each other. I also feel like the film would have benefited from a twenty-minute trim. It’s a must watch for any Del Toro fan, or just a fan of superhero films. It’s just not great.
8 – CRIMSON PEAK
I feel that most of the disappointment this film gained was thanks to its advertising. Crimson Peak was sold as a haunted house, horror film – it’s actually a gothic romance films, in the vein of Shelly and Stokes. The story of a young American woman, grieving over her father’s sudden, and violent, murder, marries a young man from England. Moving to Crimson Peak, a mansion in the moors, she finds that the house is haunted by red ghosts. However, it soon becomes clear that the ghosts are not the real threat, and there is more to her new husband and his sister than they are letting on.
Crimson Peak has quite possibly the best set-design I have ever seen in a film. The mansion is flawless. I love how lived in it feels, how grand it makes itself out to be, and how worn down and decrepit it has become. It’s a metaphor for Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain’s characters – impressive and born of wealth and elegance, but something rotten has taken over them. The use of red clay, the foundation of the house, melting away and running through the walls makes it feel like they are living in a living thing. It has to be seen to be believed. The ghosts are impressive too, a wonderful mix of practical and CG effects. Holding the film together even firmer is Del Toro’s direction (on top form) and the performances of Hiddleston, Chastain, Charlie Hunnam and Jim Beaver.
Unfortunately what lets the film down is two crucial elements. Lead actress Mia Wasikowska, most famous as Alice in those God awful Tim Burton Alice In Wonderland films, is pretty bad. She has one facial expression throughout the film and her dialogue delivery feels flat. I won’t judge her as an actress, I haven’t seen her in much at all, but she didn’t feel right for the role here. And then there is the pacing. Crimson Peak moves at a cripplingly slow pace. I don’t think it’s a deal breaker, but no film like this should be this dull. It almost makes the sets feel a bit wasted. It’s more than worth the watch, particularly around Halloween, but we do have better Del Toro films out there.