Written by Tommy Tracy
Oh, Guillermo del Toro, you always seem to come up with some of the strangest images, images no sane person can ever conjure up. Let me firstly state, I am not a huge fan of del Toro’s work, usually finding his films hit or miss. I absolutely love The Devil’s Backbone and both Hellboy films but couldn’t stand Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and think Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the most overrated films of all time. Yet, I was strangely intrigued by Crimson Peak, a film that looked so strange and so scary that I actually feared to see it. But let’s get one thing straight right off the bat; this is not a horror film. Crimson Peak is a love story, a thrilling drama focusing on a young woman who loves a man, haunted by ghosts of the past and one incredibly insane woman.
Crimson Peak stars Mia Wasikowska as Edith, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist who was once haunted by her mother’s ghost at a young age. Fourteen years later she aspires to be a writer, using her experience as a tool. Her father, Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) wants the best for her, turning away young Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) as her eventual romance. Through a strange (and brutally gory) turn of events, Edith falls for Thomas and moves from America to England, now Mrs. Edith Sharpe. Strange things begin to occur as Thomas, a clay manufacturer, gives off the vibe that he is not to be trusted. This is proven further by Thomas’ sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), who devilishly portrays an insane woman to the tee, scaring you with every word that exits her mouth. Edith begins to be haunted by ghosts in her new home as well, leading her to think that the family she wed into has a deep, dark secret. And boy, do they!
Edith’s mother’s ghost has given Edith the same warning throughout the years: BEWARE OF CRIMSON PEAK. It’s something she brushes off at first but when Thomas explains that the clay under their land turns the snow blood red, thus deeming the area “Crimson Peak”, Edith begins to worry there was true meaning behind the ghost. After viewing this film, you will never forget the color red, as it is literally everywhere, in every frame, blinding your eyes with its brightness and really giving off the appearance that something is wrong with whoever came up with this idea. Del Toro is visually making us uncomfortable; we never know if this is blood or clay we’re seeing. The ghosts that haunt Edith (and the house) are also portrayed as either blood red or pitch black, weaving their way in and out of frame, lurking in the shadows and scaring the hell out of you. Yes, I mentioned this is a love story but these ghosts are effective and when it’s their time to shine, they command your attention. The monsters are CGI, unfortunately, but they blend in very well with the gothic environment.
Jessica Chastain is the epitome of the word incredible as Lady Lucille, an insane woman bent on getting exactly what she wants, a better life. Everything she says and does has you gripping the edge of your seat, wondering what she’ll do or say next. This role was a perfect role for Chastain to take because she’s gotten a little complacent in recent roles. Yes, she’s a great actress but it seems like she’s taken the same roles the past few years and this was a role for her to try something different, and damn, she nailed it. Tom Hiddleston is, as always, awesome as Thomas Sharpe. Can we just all agree that Hiddleston is not to be trusted, always playing a liar and a trickster, toying with our emotions and making us wonder if he is truly good or truly evil? I was constantly questioning if Thomas truly loved Edith because every decision he made was a strange one. Wasikowska is great as well but her powerful co-stars overshadow her in every scene they share. She never comes off as an independent woman past her first few scenes, always needing either Thomas or her father to define her.
Many of you may be wondering what I meant by this being a love story and not a horror movie. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is scary and violent, a hard R if I’ve ever seen one. But the central focus is not about the horror you are seeing but on the emotions that every character feels. When Edith and Thomas first meet, you feel the energy they share, the love they are about to experience. This will turn a lot of people off but I wish it wouldn’t. This film was incredible; a slow burn of a film, beautifully mixing horror, drama and screwed up images that only Guillermo del Toro could come up with. There are a few lulls from time to time as the film slows down but that’s just a minor grievance. Crimson Peak is a beautiful throwback to gothic horror and drama; it could be this generation’s Dracula.
Final Grade: 9.5/10