Awards Profile: Crimson Peak

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Welcome to the 2015 Awards Profiles series.  For the next two months, every day (except for Saturday), we will bring you a run down of a future 2015 film that we see as a potential awards vehicle for next year’s Academy Awards.  This is all speculative since with just about all these films, we haven’t seen a frame yet.  Nonetheless, we venture on.  If you miss a film, then click on the tag “2015 Awards Profile.”

Directed By: Guillermo del Toro

Written By: Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Leslie Hope and Burn Gorman

Synopsis (From IMDB): “In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds…and remembers.”

Why It Could Succeed:
There’s nothing more visually enticing on the big screen than a stylish, campy, Vampire horror film set in a gothic mansion. Guillermo del Toro’s name attached to the project brings about an added layer of excitement since cinephiles know his keen attention to detail and tonal specificity make for a compelling feast for the eyes. The cast alone should seduce any moviegoer to the cinema: Jessica Chastain, a crimson talent in her own right who’s already demonstrated range with genre and character inhabitation; and Tom Hiddleston, the actor anyone can count on to pull off villainy with perfect swagger/danger equilibrium. Given the October release date, this might appease a crowd who prefers their horror to be a bit more on the glamorous and intellectual side as opposed to, say, last year’s banal fright sellout Ouija.

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The early rave review by legendary horror author Stephen King is pretty much the biggest endorsement of quality a genre film of this scale can receive. Lord knows horror fans will be clamoring by the thousands just to see if King’s hyperbolic declaration is true. While Universal Pictures will do everything in its corporate power to make the film’s concept appeal to mainstream audiences, I have a feeling there will be some behind-the-scenes award campaigning to present Crimson Peak as more adult, sophisticated fare in the same vein as The Sixth Sense and Rosemary’s Baby, two horror films of decade’s past that jibed well with Academy voters.

Could del Toro join friends Peter Jackson and Alfonso Cuaron by snagging a "Best Director" nomination?
Could del Toro join friends Peter Jackson and Alfonso Cuaron by snagging a “Best Director” nomination?

Why It Could Fail:
Guillermo del Toro’s last film, Pacific Rim, was a worldwide smash but received mixed feedback despite the predictable praise of its visual might. Plot-wise, Pacific Rim was a total bust, as was its acting by leading man Charlie Hunnam, who reteams with del Toro on Crimson Peak (hopefully not as a bad sign of things to come). Hunnam’s bland delivery and cipher of a hero has to make moviegoers question del Toro’s investment in storytelling. We’ve seen him weave superb tales of enchantment (see: Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy films), but the aesthetic has always superseded the narrative in terms of importance. I’m sure I’m not the only moviegoer frustrated by today’s lack of narrative prioritization – we live in a cinematic landscape that prefers superficial presentation to compelling human drama. Since Crimson Peak isn’t part of a franchise and can’t get away with that fortuitous trend, it might be better off distinguishing itself in some other way. My fear is that it will shoot for a quick cash-grab instead of revolutionizing the genre from the ground up. At least it won’t run the risk of being as dull and forgettable as Only Lovers Left Alive, although it’s going to have to be something truly special to hit the zeitgeist like Neil Jordan’s Interview with a Vampire did at the time of its release.

Awards Speculation:
As I said previously, Crimson Peak is going to have a be much more than celluloid eye candy if it wants a shot at the big leagues. Tech nods aren’t even guaranteed considering recent horror gems like The Conjuring and The Babadook were ignored despite immersive production design and bone-chilling sound effects. Chastain will have to go through a stunning character transformation if she wants another Oscar nomination to her name, and it has to be more than just a woman possessed because we’ve all seen that character arc play before to a death. Even Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman was overlooked for her astounding work in the psychological horror sleeper hit, The Others. If any acting nod is coming this film’s way, it’ll likely go to Tom Hiddleston, who has been gracing us with stellar performance after stellar performance over the past five years but has yet to land a role truly prolific enough to reel in the Academy’s attention. This one might be meaty enough. Also watch out for a potential 11th-hour/lone director surprise in the multitalented form of Guillermo del Toro, a man widely known and respected in the industry. He’s been on the precipice of some recognition from his peers for quite some time now, and perhaps Crimson Peak will be his ticket into the elite “Best Director” lineup.

Oscar Potential:
Best Director
Best Actress – Jessica Chastain
Best Supporting Actor – Tom Hiddleston
Best Original Score
Best Sound Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Production Design
Best Costume Design
Best Visual Effects