Back after his brilliantly fun massive monster movie, Guillermo Del Toro returns with a lavish love-letter to gothic fantasy literature.
After a family tragedy leaves the young aspiring author, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) falling for the temptations of the mysterious Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), she is soon swept off of her feet and agrees to move in with him, along with Thomas’s sister, Lucile Sharpe (Jessica Chastain) into their ominous looking ancestral home, Allerdale Hall. Before long it’s apparent that all is not what it seems within the walls of the house, both its occupants and the house share a dark secret that Edith is about to uncover.
Every frame of Crimson Peak has been beautifully designed, it only begins with the Victorian-era setting. Allerdale Hall itself is a grand set, rich with detail that will keep your eyes wandering around the frame. The worn out walls crumble away as red clay from beneath the house oozes its way out of the cracks as the scenes unfold. The corridors look as creaky as they sound whilst huge oil paintings loom over the audience just as much as the characters. The cinematography is also a beautiful feast for the eyes, it’s rich colours echo the evil and lust that are delivered from the performances in.
Wasikowska’s Edith is a great leading lady, smart yet fearful, but it’s Tom Hiddleston’s and Jessica Chastain’s Sharpe siblings that really steal the show. Whilst Hiddleston is perfect for the secretive aristocrat, he’s great at teasing his motives but it’s Chastain’s Lucile who demands your attention. When she’s on screen, her piercing eyes, stern lips and the way she holds her self creates a sensuous feeling dread that only Del Toro could demand and get.
The strong heart that lies within the stories of Del Toro’s earlier work, such as Pan’s Labyrinth, unfortunately lack any real emotional impact here in Crimson Peak. Despite the lusciously macabre aesthetics, the story seems to only meander along and although it wonderfully sets up dark suspicions and scary mysteries, they never quite develop into something that is entirely satisfying because whilst we should be finding the ghost’s the most frightening and evil aspect of Crimson Peak, they become secondary players to reveal something a little more predictable behind the horror. Fans of the literature from which this film was born from will no doubt figure out the path we’re being lead down.
Although it has it’s flaws Crimson Peak is a refreshing and gorgeous watch, the hard work and love of the art can be seen and felt both in front of and behind the camera. The great love for horror that Del Toro has translates deliciously on screen, creating atmosphere and shocks, especially with it’s gory violence so considering the saturated market of horror movies and franchises, it’s a pleasure to see such a vision realised.