Comic-Con International is traditionally a 4-day event held from Thursday to Sunday annually in July with an additional few hours the evening before for those with access to Preview Night. Preview Night is just as busy as a normal day at the convention as attendees, exhibitioners, industry representatives and press lineup to pickup their passes, get a first look at what’s on the show floor and to seek out the highly coveted Comic-Con exclusive merchandise.
On that night last week for Comic-Con 2014, Legendary Pictures held a special exclusive preview event for a pair of projects they wanted to showcase and we were fortunate enough to attend. As we stopped by their booth, shared with Warner Bros. on the show floor, we were met with an impressive display of Warcraft film props and the movie's new logo. The dark box-shaped booth stood out on the floor, highlighted by glass cases which held a massive Orc hammer on one side, and a sword and shield on the other – giving fans their first official look at the weapons and their size in the Duncan Jones movie. But that’s not what we were there fore.
Inside the booth, we crowded in to do two things: Try out a Pacific Rim virtual reality demo using the Oculus Rift VR headset, and to speak with director Guillermo del Toro about his current project, Crimson Peak. You can read about what it was like to stand inside the digital 3D cockpit of a Jaeger mech and fight Kaiju alongside Charlie Hunnam here.
After that, I was shuffled into a small, dark corridor where del Toro happily smiled and welcomed myself and two others. A Comic-Con fan-favorite and a comic/movie/video game geek himself del Toro began explaining what we were standing in – it was a recreation of a sample of the set where Crimson Peak was shot in my homeland of Canada. It was eerie, extremely detailed and with so much meaning that much of it will go completely unnoticed from event he moviegoers looking for it.
What we have here is a miniature version of what we created for Crimson Peak. For Crimson Peak we created a fully functional three-story high Victorian mansion with ghosts. This actually is a little experience, like a theatrical sort of performance piece that gives the audience the chance to feel the atmosphere of Crimson Peak and put together the story a little bit. The story starts with the matriarch of the Sharpe clan. You may notice on her finger a ring that we later dig up here.
There’s a little corridor I designed in terms of visual lighting. I arranged the props, designed the set, designed the sound. I wanted to fill it with optical and audio emotions—flickering lights, groaning, creeps and moans from the house. So if you watch it from there, you can see in there, for example, one nice illusion. You see this. It looks out of focus. It looks like you are seeing double or triple because of the repetition of the pattern.
Even though we were in a tiny room, one end of it appeared as if it kept going further. Part of it was the odd visual effect del Toro refers to above with there being 3 layers to the corridor detailing, the other was the background. The really creepy visual detail is how del Toro’s team crafted the corridor detailing to take the shape of a human being.
On the walls, we see similar creative designs, from patterns that look like moths and butterflies, a visual theme of the film. If you look close enough, the letters spelling a word in one of them.
We hide faces in the woodwork. We hide writings. You can see the writing here F-E-A-R. You can see the same family crest that is aside. But now that we are lighting it different, you can see a skull in it. That was not there before. But the movie and the attraction are designed to have many illusions.
I organized the attraction so you can have the storytelling of the film. We gave you a list of props and what they mean. You can see the beginning of a film, the middle of a film, the ending of a film. We make it clear that the movie does not end well. This shows you the level of detail and craftsmanship that went into fabricating the film, the props, the wardrobe. These are two pieces worn by Lucille Sharpe, worn by Jessica Chastain, and Edith Cushing worn by Mia.
We went after true Victorian fabric and true Victorian lacework so we could give it authenticity but also a beautiful sort of fairytale horror look. And you can see the butterfly theme even in the way her shoulders are shaped like the wings of a butterfly, delicate and translucent. For movie that is the same as the props; it’s at the same time very gorgeous and incredibly brutal and scary.
Crimson Peak is one of many projects Guillermo del Toro has shot near my home, outside of Toronto. Pacific Rim and Crimson Peak were shot there most recently. What makes you keep coming back to Toronto to shoot?
I love the room. I love the city. I’ve done five movies there, five projects. We are going again for The Strain. And I will shoot in Toronto as many times as I can because I adore it. I adore the city. I adore the culture, the people, the food, the library, the bookstore…
You’ve done obviously comic stuff with Pacific Rim, do you think there’s potential for something similar, comic book tie-ins for Crimson Peak?
What we’re talking about with Crimson Peak is doing a book tie-in. I don’t think it’s a story that lends itself to comics because it is gothic romance, and gothic romance requires a really atmospheric advenure. So we have elements of romance, elements of thriller, ghosts…scary ghosts, but very scary humans, much more scary.
How important is the trans-media experience now with games, movies, books? Is it a different way we consume stuff? As a filmmaker or a creator, how does that…?
I think the trans-media makes it clear that all you do in every one medium is to tell a story. You have to tell it differently in a video game than in a comic. You tell it different from TV to movies. I think in the very new future trans-media is going to just become a fact, a reality. We are getting there with difficult speed of storytelling, with the creation of assets that can be reproduced in many platforms. But we are still 5-10 years away, I think. Now, what we need to do is learn it because it’s a fact of life.
Excited for a new horror film by the mind behind Pan's Labyrinth and the Hellboy movies?
Crimson Peak is directed by Guillermo del Toro off of his and co-writer Matthew Robbins's screenplay and stars Charlie Hunnam, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Doug Jones.
Crimson Peak hits theaters October 16, 2015.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.