Crimson Peak (2015)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Contains spoilers.

Its incredibly tragic how movies get mis-marketed. Not everyone will read the interviews and excerpts to find out how Guillermo del Toro views his own movie. So the first thing you should know is that Crimson Peak is not a horror, it's actually gothic romance with smaller elements of mystery, thrill, and horror.

Mia Wasikowska plays Edith Cushing, living in America with her wealthy, industrialist father, who fancies herself an author; she had a terrifying moment as a child, soon after the death of her mother, when her mother's ghost visited her to deliver a warning. When Edith is a young woman an aristocrat comes to town in search of investors, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Thomas and Edith quickly become acquainted, falling in love. And when Edith's father suddenly dies in a suspicious accident, Thomas consoles her. With their newfound closeness and growing better acquainted, the pair marry and return to the Sharpe home in England. Allerdale Hall, the Sharpe family home, is an old and dilapidated mansion of exquisite grandeur, minus the massive hole in the roof, general disrepair, and ghosts. Edith begins to grow suspicious and fearful with the appearance of the ghosts and starts to investigate.

The story itself if nothing close to what I had expected from the marketing. The trailers make it look and sound like a typical horror movie. While there certainly are scary moments that horror isn't at all the point of the movie. Instead, del Toro has crafted a movie that is at once both a beautifully old fashioned thriller and surprisingly modern romance. Crimson Peak falters between horror and mystery at it's start while simultaneously having Edith literally talk with other characters about how stories have romance where it doesn't belong, helping bridge the gap as the movie turns toward romantic territory. Unfortunately, that promising horror and thrill [and romance] at the start , devolves into a slow, less-fun [and almost comical at times] noir mystery story, which involves love, murder, a conspiracy and schemes, detective work, poison, and even some mental health issues thrown in for good measure. It certainly is interesting but should've never been marketed as a paranormal horror film.

 

The cinematography is amazingly atmospheric and expertly conducted, with only a small portion being computer generated. Dan Laustsen really brings his A-game for Crimson Peak. The film plays constantly with light and shadow and the contrast between them. Some of the best scenes are either in bright lights or almost pitch black; del Toro and Laustsen play beautifully with the lighting which, combined with the acting and production value, often creates the feeling of watching a play. With less CG there's no doubt that it could be a play, and that's a very exciting thing for a movie. The music doesn't support the mood of the film quite so much as the photography; it tends not to be subtle or atmospheric, rather it guides our expectations and makes some scenes fairly predictable.

Mia Wasikowska presents a character to us who appears wholly naive and, although annoying and whimsical at times, is also endearing with her optimistic view of the world. Tom Hiddleston plays Sir Thomas Sharpe amazingly, presenting the only complete character arc in the movie, usurping even Edith. While he doesn't seem charismatic to me, I can certainly understand why his character is so attractive to others. And Jessica Chastain plays the sheltered Lucille Sharpe exquisitely, both subtle and intriguing. It becomes apparent that, although good performances abound, Chastain truly steals the stage with her dark and dangerous vibe. Sympathetic and well-rounded, the only qualm with performances is some overacting with body language. The odd turn here, retort there, or the angle of someone's body seems unnatural and forced, and while it can play into the effect of the movie feeling like a play at times it's also exactly how I've described it. And it's a little odd how Edith can never seem to sleep through the night, repeatedly waking up with a cough... sure it makes sense with the conspiracy going on and plays into the thriller aspect, but doesn't make much common sense... maybe that's just me being picky.

Despite the mood of the movie floundering often, it maintains its disposition as immersive and intriguing in the fullest. While the thrills didn't have me on the edge of my seat they were certainly pulse pounding, with the suspense aided greatly by an Edward Allen Poe heartbeat. The romance wasn't quite so believable but given the context its understandable in the end and it's funny to see Tom Hiddleston's naked and thrusting butt in an awkward and rushed sex scene. As the paranormal horror aspect begins to fizzle and turnaround into a detective/noir narrative, the energy gets a little stale as it slows. I certainly love the premise and grimaced at the images, but wish the horror aspect could've been slightly more drawn out.

 
 

TL;DR: Crimson Peak proves to be the most beautiful soap opera I've ever seen. With fantastic performances and interesting concepts, del Toro's newest visual masterpiece is a sight to see. Kept on the edge of my seat and drawn in by the beauty of the world created for us, I just wish the mood didn't have so much back-and-forth. 

  • Acting – 16 / 20
  • Story – 13 / 20
  • Cinematography – 19 / 20
  • Soundtrack – 6 / 10
  • Entertainment Factor – 7 / 10
  • Mystery/Romance – 5 / 10
  • Other – 5 / 10
 

Grade C = 70 / 100