For this creature-horror enthusiast, practical effects hold a special place in my...chest cavity. Guillermo del Toro has rarely delivered pure horror, but few can challenge his set pieces and practical effects. The director has made a commitment in all of his films to build an atmosphere that is tangible for the viewer. Of course, he mixes in completely random and unnecessary CGI-heavy action pieces (Blade 2 spotlight fight...seriously?), but his faith towards the practical effects is something this modern cinematic world is desperately lacking.
A polarizing film, and for good enough reason, but Hellboy 2 was a masterpiece in this regard. The practical effects and set pieces were art in motion. Similar to his work in Pan's Labyrinth, del Toro has a knack for finding this medium between child-like wonder and 30-year old night terrors (Pale Man anyone?). Argue that everything else he delivers is lacking and you can find ground to stand on, but he thrives in a dying aspect of cinema that is going the way of the dinosaur as humans "evolve" cinema into heavier and heavier CGI. (This will be discussed further in a comic coming out next week!)
But back to Crimson Peak. Guillermo's new film is getting some traction as "his masterpiece". From the trailers it is hard to tell if he has successfully created a horror film of consequence. Will it actually be scary? The gothic ghost tale seems to be lacking the tangible creatures he has supplied in previous works, but he is certainly continuing to push the envelope of cinematic environments. The mansion where much of the film is likely to take place looks fantastic, with some Tim Burton-esque flair.
Time will tell whether Guillermo hit his peak (pun unintentional...but I'm keeping it), but one can't help but wonder what we could've had if del Toro had been given the opportunity to work on At the Mountains of Madness. Forced to trade one peak for another (I'll stop) because his vision was being muddled by Hollywood, and now here we are. It would be unfortunate if my mind was forced to compare Crimson Peak to a movie that wasn't even made, but that is a possibility I will have to struggle with.