Thursday, December 2, 2021

Review: The Scarlet Hill

Do not approach

Guillermo del Toro it is a name very dear to fans of pop culture. Every time its name is related to a project, small or large scale (see the Hobbit before its launch), a furor is created around it. The question is: why?

Blade 2 and the two Hellboy gave him traffic within Hollywood, even though the first two were only of reasonable quality. Circle of fire, although it is a good film, it is for a very specific audience. So much that it yielded little and worried those who invested in the director. This was because he had already tried to establish good authoritative credentials with the Pan's Labyrinth. But the fact is that Del Toro alternates between good and questionable productions. The Scarlet Hill, unfortunately, falls into the second category.

Some considerations: Del Toro has a good art team, with photography of Dan Laustsen and soundtrack by Fernando Velázquez. Working with them, Del Toro created a work that is visually and sonically beautiful. The aesthetics that permeates the film fills the eyes and ears, from the less intense moments of the first act of the film until the arrival at the mansion where the second act occurs, which is an ode to all the classic works of terror involving haunted mansions. It is a tribute to that genre, but Del Toro maintains his style in the film, which is absolutely distinct and recognizable, which, in these times of so many pasteurized works, is something to be praised.

But, when it goes beyond aesthetic issues, Scarlet Hill it is a problematic work, for several reasons. The first: indecision. The film does not know what it is: terror, romance, historical drama ... It is up to the viewer to decide what he likes most in the plot. Or, in this case, what is less strange. The film takes place at the beginning of the 20th century, with the daughter (Mia Wasikowska) of a wealthy American businessman (Jim Beaver), which represent the American vigor that began in this period, flirting with a captivating but desperate English nobleman (Tom Hiddleston) that is inseparable from his mysterious and sullen sister (Jessica Chastain), representing the decadence of the English noble class at the end of its Victorian era. After a series of strange events and motivations, the English nobleman marries the wealthy American, taking her to his dreary mansion, where bizarre events will challenge the young Yankee's sanity.

A Colina Escarlate
The Scarlet Hill | Image: Universal Pictures

The premise seems incredible, but its realization is disappointing. The film has no rhythm, and for a work that is intended to be, at least partially, horror / suspense, this is fatal. Although, in terms of time, it is equally divided between first and second act, the first part seems much larger, because the film is dragging on in an attempt to deepen the protagonist's personality while trying to work out the mysteries unfolding in the plot. But the biggest problem was yet to come: the so-called Scarlet Hill. After a first act more permeated by romance and drama, it was understood in the film that terror and suspense would begin there. Del Toro well tries. But it fails.

As stated earlier, the work is visually beautiful and the mansion's settings are obviously done with care. But the story that develops there does not support the intensity of this visual. As he tries to justify the protagonist at the beginning of the film, when referring to her book, it is “it is not a ghost story, it is a story with ghosts”. However, as the film stretches, but does not develop, it starts to feel more like an excuse and less like a metalinguistic self-reference. Because everything starts to seem meaningless and frivolous, especially as these ghosts start to appear more often. In fact, the ghosts themselves, who should take care of the scares, end up harming: their movement and expression, which are in charge of Del Toro's always great partner, Doug Jones, are scary, but the special effects are too plastic, taking away any aura of fear that they could project. And the actors, who could handle this mess for Del Toro, can't handle it.

Tom Hiddleston, interpreter of Sir Sharpe, is just regular. Its post-Victorian English type is convincing at first, even charming, but this effect is lost as the film moves into the supernatural. Very little for those who show all their capacity in the wonderful adaptation of Henry V gives BBC. Mia Wasikowska is simply not convincing. There is no way to distinguish your Edith Cushing of your Alice, and your Alice was something. Until proven otherwise, she is, in fact, just a pretty face. The biggest disappointment is Jessica Chastain. For someone whose Oscar starts to heat up, his performance in Colina is a serious point against. It's not just that your character is bland and unnecessary. As the film nears its end, it becomes even a caricature, even harming the entire outcome of the film almost on its own, were it not for the expression of Wasikowska herself.

crimson peak
The Scarlet Hill | Image: Universal Pictures

Scarlet Hill it is a expendable film. If it lasted 15 minutes, it could even become ridiculous. Del Toro has already shown the world that he can be a good director, especially with the Labyrinth, but his insistence on shooting everywhere, both in terms of industry and style, may end up costing him his credit. Maybe it would be better for him to sit down and think about his next project, to give us something worthy of a great director.

More mazes, less hills.

See the full sheet and full cast of Scarlet Hill

Thunder Wave note
Scarlet Hill is far from the quality generally seen in the works of Guillermo del Toro

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