I’m a huge fan of director Guillermo del Toro – the guy fascinates me. He has Bleak House (and now Bleak House 2 also), a “home away from home” that houses all of his various collections as well as is a working studio where artists work on pre-production art for his movies, surrounded by inspiration. Here are some pictures of it from his Twitter feed:

In addition to my interest in del Toro as an individual, I’ve always found his films visually arresting and interesting to watch. Blade 2, Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim – del Toro has a unique visual flair that’s easily identifiable.

So when I’d heard that we’d be in DC, about 45 minutes away from a new Alamo Drafthouse, where del Toro’s latest film, Crimson Peak, would be playing, I decided we had to check it out. Not only that, Alamo Drafthouse, in collaboration with Firestone Walker Brewing Co. has an exclusive Crimson Peak Ale, served in exclusive Crimson Peak beer glasses, designed by Mondo. As a fan of every thing I’ve mentioned in the past paragraph, it seemed a no-brainer to check it out.

The Alamo Drafthouse in Ashburn, VA is new, but has the feel of a classic cinema inside. Red curtains, pre-shows straight out of the 70’s – this feels like the type of place Quentin Tarantino would call home. In addition, a full bar is inside the theater for pre- and post-show drinks, with 32 craft beers on tap. As a theater with reserved seating and in-theater food service, everything is designed to make the movie going experience as pure as possible. Little sheets of paper to write your order on and leave sticking up inform your server you need something without obstruction or any bright lighting. Pre-show advertisements very sternly inform you of the company’s strict no-phone, no-talking policy. The presentation is digital, but when you see an Evil Dead Double Feature advertised before a brand new movie, you can’t help but feel like you’ve uncovered something special. In addition, a dynamite sound system accentuated the right amount of creepiness and shock needed for a film like Crimson Peak.

Speaking of Crimson Peak, how was the movie itself? I’ve seen mixed reviews online, but I rather enjoyed it. Though deliberately paced (many folks will find it slow, with an opening act that takes a bit too long to get to the titular location), I never felt bored, as nothing seemed erroneous. Though the lead actor’s didn’t have a chemistry befitting a love story that escalated so quickly, it did seem time-appropriate, given the movie’s setting. Some actors, such as Supernatural’s Jim Beaver, seemed a little miscast, but were still fun to see on the big screen. Of the three leads, I found Mia Wasikowska the weakest, with Jessica Chastain stealing the show, and Tom Hiddleston somewhere in the middle.

Visually, the film is breathtaking. Stunning locales, both interior and exterior, make Allendale Hall feel like a real place. It’s not immaculate, it’s flawed and gothic, yet beautiful. Red clay from the mines underneath seeps through it’s pores and floorboards, and certain hallways feel like places you’d expect to see Hellraiser’s Pinhead, yet it’s still a place that befits the movie. A home, lived in, but cold. I’d love to see an art book and production book of the sets (I’m sure one is available).

Crimson Peak is very much a gothic ghost story, with some romance and horror thrown in, but don’t go in necessarily expecting a modern horror movie. Though produced with modern special effects, the film is very informed by the past. Though available in IMAX, the film wasn’t filmed natively in the format, and we saw a normal presentation. I can imagine that IMAX would be interesting though, given the sound and design work. Definitely worth checking out on the big screen.

Here’s a short video of our experience at the Alamo Drafthouse seeing Crimson Peak: