‘Crimson Peak’: Another Oscar winner for Guillermo Del Toro (‘Pan’s Labyrinth’)?

Guillermo Del Toro’s gothic horror film “Crimson Peak” may have a hard time breaking into Best Picture, but that doesn’t mean voters will ignore it’s incredible craft in several below-the-line categories. With its sumptuous period detail and dazzling special effects, this creepy tale of love and bloodshed could scare up several nominations, despite underperforming at the weekend box office.

The last film of Del Toro’s to tickle the academy’s fancy was “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), which walked away with wins for Cinematography (Guillermo Navarro), Art Direction/Set Decoration (Eugenio CaballeroPilar Revuelta) and Makeup (David MartiMontse Ribe), and contended for Original Screenplay (Del Toro), Score (Javier Navarrate), and Foreign Language Film.

With a 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, “Crimson Peak” may not have the universal praise of that film (it currently retains a 95% rating), yet it possesses the same attention to detail that has defined this unique filmmaker’s vision for over 20 years, and Oscar voters will no doubt take notice.

“Crimson Peak” tells the story of an aspiring American author (Mia Wasikowska) haunted by ghosts. After marrying a charming inventor (Tom Hiddleston), she is swept away to his eerie estate in England  — named Crimson Peak — also occupied by his mysterious sister (Jessica Chastain) and the gruesome spirits who haunt the halls at night. The house holds many secrets, none of them pleasant, as our heroine is quick to realize.

As far as awards potential goes, let’s start with the obvious: Thomas E. Sanders’ glorious sets could very well win the award for Production Design. The crumbling Crimson Peak — a gothic, nightmarish vision of twisting corridors and rusty fixtures — is a triumph of old Hollywood craftsmanship. Sander received nominations for “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) — which shares many obvious similarities — and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998).

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Kate Hawley’s period costumes are also right up the academy’s alley. Her designs work as both accurate depictions of their time and metaphorical representations of their characters, which is no small feat. Her first nomination could result in her first win, since the awards for Production and Costume Design often go hand-in-hand, overlapping 42 times since 1948:

1948: “Hamlet” (Black-and-White)
1949: “The Heiress” (B&W)
1950: “Samson and Delilah (Color)
1951: “An American in Paris” (Color)
1952: “The Bad and the Beautiful” (B&W)
1952: “Moulin Rouge” (Color)
1953: “The Robe” (Color)
1957: “The King and I” (Color)
1958: “Gigi” (1958)
1959: “Ben-Hur” (Color)
1960: “Spartacus” (Color)
1961: “West Side Story” (Color)
1963: “Cleopatra” (Color)
1964: “My Fair Lady” (Color)
1965: “Doctor Zhivago” (Color)
1966: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (B&W)
1967: “Camelot”
1971: “Nicholas and Alexandria”
1973: “The Sting”
1975: “Barry Lyndon”
1977: “Star Wars”
1979: “All That Jazz”
1980: “Tess”
1982: “Gandhi”
1983: “Fanny and Alexander”
1984: “Amadeus”
1986: “A Room with a View”
1987: “The Last Emperor”
1988: “Dangerous Liaisons”
1991: “Bugsy”
1995: “Restoration”
1996: “The English Patient”
1997: “Titanic”
1998: “Shakespeare in Love”
2001: “Moulin Rouge!”
2002: “Chicago”
2003: “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
2004: “The Aviator”
2005: “Memoirs of a Geisha”
2010: “Alice in Wonderland”
2013: “The Great Gatsby”
2014: “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

It is important to note that nine times the winners of these awards did not compete for Best Picture (“Samson and Delilah,” “The Bad and the Beautiful,” “Spartacus,” “Camelot,” “Fanny and Alexander,” “Restoration,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “The Great Gatsby”), and that in recent years, having that corresponding nomination seems to matter less to voters.

Dan Laustsen’s painterly Cinematography — with its deep blood reds and cold blues — could also factor, as could Bernat Vilaplana’s suspenseful Editing. Sound Designer Randy Thom, a two-time winner for “The Right Stuff” (1983) and “The Incredibles” (2004) and twelve-time nominee, shouldn’t be discounted either: part of the film’s effect comes from his expertly placed moans and rumblings.

The luscious score by Fernando Velazquez, an up-and-comer whose credits include “The Orphanage” (2007), “The Impossible” (2012), and “Mama” (2013), may find itself in contention with the picky music branch.

And the Visual Effects and Makeup are both top notch — as per usual with Del Toro — and stand a good chance of surviving the notorious whittling down that occurs prior to those branches nominating.

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