Director: Guillermo del Toro
Running Time: 119 Minutes
“Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we’re opened, we’re red.”
― Clive Barker,
Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) believes in ghosts. She believes because she has seen one. Her deceased mother, to be precise. Though a frightening experience to the young Edith, her mother was giving her a cryptic warning about her future. More than a decade later we meet Edith as a young woman, aspiring to be the next Mary Shelley. Her father, Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), supports her ambitions. She is his youngest child and they love alone in a warm and vibrant home.
Enter Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain). This odd pair is looking to fund a clay mining machine, designed by Thomas. They have been turned down by several would be investors the world over. America is their final effort. Edith takes a shining to Thomas but the affair is swiftly cut short by her father. After Carter Cushing’s tragic death, Edith is comforted and courted by Thomas. The two marry and return to the Sharpe family home, Allerdale Hall in England, with Lucille. It is a grand old dame in an inhospitable landscape.
Isolated, with no family to ask after her, Edith starts to experience some strange goings on in the house. Initially rebuked as moans and groans of the sinking foundations and dilapidated walls and roof, Edith starts to piece together a rather horrific story love, murder and betrayal. Cold, alone and terrified, she must rely on herself to make it out alive.
Performances & Special Effects
Upon first inspection, the cast seemed to be a rather eclectic mix of individuals but the casting was perfect. Hiddleston and Chastain play off each other superbly, resulting in a general feeling of unease. The viewer may have suspicions about the brother and sister pair, and their intentions but this is entirely related through subtle glances, gestures and countenance. Wasikowska’s gave a strong performance. She was able to suitably portray the character’s confusion and curiosity. She added a sense of naivety to the film. She was believable as a woman separated from her entire world but finding the inner strength to do what has to be done, regardless of the consequences.
The interpersonal relations in this film were so well done. Wasikowska and Beaver had great on-screen rapport. I was impressed by Charlie Hunnam‘s performance as Dr McMichael. I still have his Pacific Rim performance lodged in my brain and this was a good change of pace and genre.
The creature/ghost designs where flawless. It was refreshing to see del Toro’s take on what ghosts could look like. They weren’t all just white mist. Some where dresses in funeral garb, others were missing entire body parts (usually as an indicator of their cause of death or perimortem injury). The seeping mist effect on the ghosts was a fantastic touch, and gave the impression of their waning essence.
I also enjoyed the attention paid to smaller details and the general set dressing in this film. The sets were stupendous, with no half measures being taken. I adore the Lovecraftian feel of the house and the seeping crimson is everywhere, and not just because of the red clay beneath the property.
Here’s the thing… I made the mistake of watching Crimson Peak’s trailer just prior to watching the movie. This was a bad idea. I’m not usually a trailer watcher because often too much of the film is given away in a three minute long trailer. This is a great film. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was suitably uneasy at all the right times, but for all the wrong reasons. The trailer made it seems like more of a ghost story, where the haunting was central to Edith wanting to leave the house and go home to America. This is far more a psychological thriller rather than a ghost story.
Having said that, I love del Toro’s vision and the composition of his cinematography. He frames scenes and people extremely well, and with flair. The use of bold colour in an otherwise dark and dreary landscape was genius and emotive. The costuming was exquisite, and the use of warm and cold lighting gave the film a life of its own. I recommend this for a cold, stormy night, bundled under blankets with hot chocolate and snacks. Preferably with someone who appreciates good intrigue and mystery. The plot is not difficult to follow and predict but it’s a hella fun ride with some juicy gore.
My rating: 4/5
Rent or buy Crimson Peak from Amazon.
You might like: