“Crimson Peak: Monstrous Women and their Music”.

Halfyard, Janet K. (2017) “Crimson Peak: Monstrous Women and their Music”. In: Fear 2000: 21st century monsters, 21-22 April 2017, Sheffield Hallam University. (Unpublished)

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Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak (2015) employ the classic gothic trope of the decadent (if dilapidated) domesticity of a castle and the dank and dangerous cellars beneath it in which lurk blood-soaked secrets. Other aspects of the film defy gothic conventions, however, in particular in the female characters, who possess far more agency than any of the men. The innocent heroine, Edith, ultimately rescues herself, both by unpicking the puzzle of the castle and its ghosts and by some handy defensive wielding of a large shovel; all of the ghosts are female and turn out to be helping rather than threatening Edith; and the true threat is revealed to be Edith’s sister in law, Lucille. The music and sound design of the film also play against the grain of gothic horror, and present the listener with a serious of double bluffs by both employing and then subverting our culturally coded expectations of what the sounds of score and soundtrack mean.

This paper explores two aspects of sound and music in the film: the use of a child’s voice singing in the opening credits, a use which normally operates as a symbol of innocence under threat in film scoring, but which here is eventually revealed as representative of the monstrous; and the contrast of orchestral film scoring for the world of the living and electronic sound design for the world of the monstrous dead; a binary which again, in conventional scoring, would normally construct the ghosts and the ‘unnatural’ sounds of electronica as a threat to the ‘natural’ (and tunefully scored) living world. Like Edith, we are tricked by the scoring strategy into assuming that the ghosts are the problem and, like her, we are gradually led to a better understanding that what is unfamiliar may not be dangerous, and that it is behind the attractive and conventionally beautiful music that the real monster lurks.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: P300 Media studies
W300 Music
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Design and Media > Birmingham Conservatoire
Depositing User: Steve Halfyard
Date Deposited: 26 Feb 2018 17:14
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2018 17:14
URI: http://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/5634

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