Written by: The Editor
Guillermo del Toro sets out to revive the Gothic-thriller genre with ‘Crimson Peak’. The movie is a rare combination of romance, mystery and horror – the latter is the subtle, and effective part of classic tales.
Set in the late 19th century, the story revolves around Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) who is a strong-willed woman set to be a writer. As the daughter of a self-made industrialist, and like many women of the time, to be betrothed is in everyone’s priority list. However, her mind is elsewhere, curious about the sentimental ideas of love and her frightening encounter with her mother’s ghost. It is not until Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain) and her brother Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) arrive in New York that her world is literally turned upside down.
In one of the most spectacularly haunted houses ever committed to the screen. The Sharpes’ rotting home sits atop a deposit of bright-red clay, which oozes bloodlike from the faucets, the walls, and the floorboards. Dead leaves and snow fall through the rotted-out ceiling into the grand foyer. And at night, as the wind whips over the chimneys, the fireplaces roar and the house seems to breathe. The house is just the centerpiece of an all-around sumptuously designed film. From costuming to sets to cinematography, del Toro and his team fire on all cylinders, creating a parade of unique, colorful and memorable visuals.
And then there are the ghosts. Edith informs us from moment one that “ghosts are real” – she saw her mother’s ghost as a child, mysteriously warning her to “beware of Crimson Peak” – but that odd experience was still no preparation for the more horrific ghouls stalking the halls of the Sharpe home. Gibbering and trailing clouds of smoky blood from the sites of their fatal wounds, these ethereal masses of exposed muscle and skeleton are not your average ghosts.
Things change quickly in the tale. Del Toro and company reminds the audience of the nitty-gritty ghost that exist. Fans of the director, would recognize his alluring ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ signature in some scenes. The horrific, perhaps, more violent scenes are there too. The first one, is the mysterious and brutal murder of Edith’s father. It’s not gory per se, but carries the element of shock and perhaps one of the reasons it is an R rated film.
For the most you can say everything works here. Even the special effects, which are state of the art, tend to stay true to the idea of ghostly glimmers, and flickers of the imagination. There is no gore, shaky camera elements that distract or trick the viewer into thinking something is about to happen.
Even with all that there’s still the obvious ending. Once settled in, Cushing begins to unravel the dark secrets of the Sharpe family. And the biggest secret is so obvious so early in the movie that when it is revealed it has little shock value.
Mr. Hiddleston works because he looks like he could have stepped out of a Jane Austen novel. You could easily see him standing on the moors pining for a lost love.
Del Toro turns an empathetic eye to even the film’s nastiest characters, and by the end we feel distinct senses of both catharsis and tragic loss. That’s because del Toro loves horror not just for the fantastic visuals, the scares, the gore, or the sheer fun, but also for its potential to tell human stories. He’s employed all of the genre’s capabilities to varying degrees in his previous films, but has never brought them all together in harmony as well as in Crimson Peak. It’s his best film yet, and one of the best of the year.