By Travis Martin
It is a rarity to see a movie with elements of gothic romance within a horror film. But somehow, director Guillermo del Toro is able to pull this off with his newest film, Crimson Peak. To me, this film is eye candy, as it immerses yourself within Victorian era America and the English countryside with lush costumes and set pieces. It also contains del Toro’s signature surrealism in the form of the ghosts. And with actors like Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, and Jessica Chastain, this mashup of genres allows Crimson Peak to be a must watch for del Toro fans.
The film begins in the 19th century with Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) being visited by the ghost of her dead mother as a child, telling her “Beware of Crimson Peak”. Years later, Edith is now an aspiring author working for her father Carter (Jim Beaver) in Buffalo, NY. However, everything changes when Edith meets mysterious British aristocrat Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), who wants Carter to fund his a mining operation for red clay. However, Edith ends up falling for Thomas, who is clearly hiding something. It is only after her father dies of mysterious circumstances that Edith ends up marrying Thomas. They move to Thomas’ home of Allerdale Hall, where Thomas’ sister Lady Lucille (Chastain) is waiting for them. It is then that thing take a turn for the worst, as ghost begin haunting Edith, warning her of something terrible.
At the beginning of this film, there was not a lot I was expecting from the character Edith, with her general good girl attitude. However, I slowly watched as more was revealed about her character as layers were peeled away. This can be said about Thomas, who, although his motives and history may seem dark, through the film you see a light twinkle with his interactions with Edith, making him one of the most complex characters. This can also be said for Lucille, but in an apposite reaction, where her cold demeanor hide a much more monstrous nature that threatens Edith and everyone else. Wasikowska, Hiddleston, and Chastain play the parts to perfection. However, the character of Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), Edith childhood friend, feels unnecessary and did not bring anything else to the story.
Although I felt that there was too much time at the beginning focussing the immense atmosphere and world of Crimson Peak, it was worth it when stepping into Allerdale Hall. The house literally feels like a living organism, with red clay bleeding from its floor and walls, the furnace pulsating like a heartbeat, and the decrypting walls infested with dark moths like maggots to a corpse. Almost everything at Allerdale seems to be bleeding. And the costume design of the characters evoke as if they are wearing something from an oil painting. Production designer Thomas E. Sanders and costume designer Kate Hawley has truly outdone themselves with this film.
The ghosts of this movie, played by del Toro collaborators Doug Jones and Javier Botet, are gnarled and twisted with agony that was fascinating to watch. While others are a black harbinger of quiet death, others are a raw red that evoke suffering from the victim. However, there was never any jump scares from these or any of the film’s other characters. There was only a sense of dread in the atmosphere as the film moved forward. The finally also resolved too quickly, since the beginning had more time to build the world.
For such a risky idea, I feel that Crimson Peak was able to pull it off. The set, costume choices, and the cast help bring del Toro’s haunting vision to life on screen. Beware of how good this film will be.
Image by Imdb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2554274/)