By: Trisha Gregorio/ANDY Writer
This year’s scary movie season oversees the release of two very distinctive horror films with the influences of H.P Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and Stanley Kubrick all clashing together in the newly released Crimson Peak (directed by Guillermo del Toro), and the upcoming Victor Frankenstein (directed by Paul McGuigan).
Standard horror movie storylines of the past few years have transversed the spectrum of horror movie tropes. Both Del Toro and McGuigan take their films away from these archetypal horror elements to explore a category that has been distant from the spotlight in recent years: Gothic horror.
While many contemporary directors have interwoven Gothic elements into more modern storylines (a shining example of which is Kubrick’s The Shining,) the true core of the genre lies in its Romantic origins: damsels in distress, mysterious Victorian mansions, vampires and the mist-covered countryside. Romanticism was about stimulating its audience with something different, something wildly bizarre in comparison to the rigid Classical norms of the time. Rather than idealize fear, as is the common misconception, the Romantic and Gothic genres instead redesigned it in such a way that it could be embraced.
Crimson Peak perfectly encapsulates this aformentioned “nitty gritty” feel. Del Toro’s film, starring Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska in the lead roles, combines all of those aforementioned elements and is rounded off with dark colour schemes and elaborate costumes to take the genre back to its roots. The same goes for the highly anticipated Victor Frankenstein, set for release late this November. Despite the fact that it’s yet another contemporary interpretations of Mary Shelley’s classic story, it’s looking like it will stay faithful to its stylistic roots and impress viewers with its visual elements.
Though Crimson Peak has come under fire for becoming more style than substance in its determination to stay loyal to its Gothic sensibilities, one thing no one can deny Del Toro does exceptionally well is put elements of traditional Gothic films back into the spotlight, and challenge the norms of today’s horror movie scene. The movie boldly asks what made the Gothic horror film genre so distinct from the horror movies we know today, all while simultaneously responding with its own undermining twist on the classic factors distinctive of the genre.
And the answer? Sure, the Gothic genre doesn’t quite employ the same techniques we are now used to in horror. There are not quite so many jump-worthy scares or possessions. Exorcisms aren’t as likely to happen and scenes of violence and gore are few and far between. But the true horror of the genre, Del Toro reminds us, lies in a much more realistic source.
Instead of restless poltergeists and summoned demons, the Gothic genre entertains the notion of less palpable fears: death, guilt, and for most, the dangers that come with the unknown. Gothic elements stand out in a category of their own, and though Gothic horror doesn’t offer the same rush of adrenaline that movies like The Conjuring do, Del Toro and McGuigan seem keen to prove that the core of the genre is in itself a visual kind of poetry that still somehow manages to highlight fear as the most ancient and most human of emotions.