Crimson Peak Movie Review
Written by Becky Roberts
Released by Legendary Pictures
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Written by Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins
2015, 119 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 16th October 2015
Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing
Jessica Chastain as Lucille Sharpe
Tom Hiddleston as Thomas Sharpe
Charlie Hunnam as Dr. Alan McMichael
Jim Beaver as Carter Cushing
Burn Gorman as Holly
Oh del Toro, how we’ve missed your fantastical horror and nightmarish imagery. He’s been a busy boy of late, writing screenplays to The Hobbit film franchise, bringing the TV adaptation of his horror drama novel trilogy The Strain to life, and taking up the director’s chair to have a ball with humanoid war machines in Pacific Rim. But really, it’s that artistic creativity and visual magic reminiscent in his early Mexican works Cronos (1993), The Devil’s Backbone (2001) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) that we’ve really been craving from the horror connoisseur. And we’ve finally got it – this time just in a big budget production. Crimson Peak, written and directed by del Toro, is a pull-out-all-the-stops period gothic ghost story set in the 19th century and starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddelston.
In the light of her father’s death, aspiring writer Edith (Wasikowska) falls for the charming Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), who whisks her away from her life in a small American town to live with him and his sister Lucille (Chastain) in their medieval mansion in the English countryside. But it’s not quite the warm welcome Edith hopes for as ghostly visions haunt her new home and the Sharpe’s dark family secrets begin to unravel before her.
In true Guillermo style, it’s a visual masterpiece, the huge stunning CGI’d sets screaming gorgeous gothic charm. The ruins of the mansion lie at Crimson Peak’s heart with its decrepit, worn exterior, leaf-filled, wood-carved staircase and holey roof letting snow to pitter-patter in a pile on its once-grandiose entrance – not to mention the crimson-stained blankets of snow as the clay seeps up through it. Blood-red jewellery, flitting butterflies and melodramatic sound effects; it ticks all the boxes.
Reluctant to disappoint, it has all the tropes and contraptions of a classic Victorian ghost story: creepy, towering castles, a dark history of mystery, and, er, ghosts. It’s a production Hammer Films will wish they got their name on, instead of pulling for Woman In Black and (yawn) its sequel.
Admittedly, it broods more than it scares, using del Toro’s potently gruesome imagery to crawl under your skin and unsettle your soul rather than having you jumping out of your seat and sweating profusely. You watch monsters manifest and things foster in front of Edith’s eyes as demons crawl towards her, blood oozes out of walls and things sprout out of nowhere. It’s certainly a ‘horror’ to rollick in, not cower from.
Narratively, Crimson Peak walks the straight and narrow, not taking itself too seriously or going out of its way to particularly shock or amaze. Its traditional, no-nonsense storytelling could be more ambitious and less conventional, though you can’t help but cut it some slack for its lack of complexity.
The story it tells is well told. There’s logical flow and decently paced progression, not forgetting a stellar performance from Chastain as Thomas Sharpe’s wickedly cold sister to divert your attention. Wasikowska is her usual, alluringly mysterious self, while Hiddleston makes his on-screen transition from Thor’s Loki to the charming, seductive frontman confidently. The romance between them? Just fine.
Crimson Peak is by no means flawless, but it’s a magnificent effort from the Spanish maestro that bleeds a refreshing creativity into a well-worn genre and lives up to his very best spectacles.