Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak stars Mia Wasikowska as young Edith Cushing, an aspiring writer who is emotionally inexperienced at love but knows a thing or two about the emotional pain of losing someone close to her. In the opening of the film, Edith is reminiscing about the death of her beloved mother. Edith narrates that she has always been able to see ghosts, even though no one else can. She is young, idealistic, smart but naive and does not suspect anything when Baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) pays her rich father, Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), a visit to ask for money to help build a contraption that will help mine Sharpe’s estate of the red clay to later be turned into fuel. Mr. Cushing is not impressed with Sharpe and makes it obvious from the start. But Edith is smitten with Sharpe’s dashing good looks and seemingly kind nature. But father knows best. Thomas has a sister named Lucille who is an obvious weirdo and is as cold as they come. Brother and sister are inseparable, but it does not matter to Edith who marries Thomas and moves to England There they take up residence in the Sharpe’s family estate, Allendale Hall. It is a dilapidated dump that has fallen into disrepair over the years due to the Sharpe’s financial woes.
The home sits on a vast swath of land that is rich with red clay, with so much of it, the home is called Crimson Peak. It is here, when things start to really go bump in the night. Creaky doors, muffled thumps, screeches and, oh yea, ghosts; horrible, hideous ghosts. These are tortured souls that still plague the mansion, but who are they or rather, who were they? It is here, that del Toro shines. The production values of Crimson Peak are stunning. This is a visually rich and superbly produced film. The story, not so much. This seems to be a problem for del Toro for his last two films, Pacific Rim and now Crimson Peak. These are two visual masterpieces of color, sound and technical excellence, but the stories do not match the visual elegance.
There are lots of heads up calls in Crimson Peak. Most of the viewers are able to pick up on the fact that the Sharpes are up to no good. The only person that seems to not notice anything is Edith. She is a smart girl, but she is dealing with feelings for a man that has clouded her judgement. I mean, love is blind, right? But even when confronted by some obvious hints she seems to not react soon enough. Why is it when bad people do horrendous things to others, they record their deeds and keep them in the basement? I mean, really. Who does that? But Edith does wise up, but it comes with a cost. Wasikowska is excellent as Edith and she is able to convey strength but at the same time I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on her failure to pick up on some obvious clues that something was amiss. Wasikowska is a fine actress and she does a great job with her role. Jessica Chastain is quietly malevolent as Lucille. To Lucille, Edith is the means to an end, that is all. Chastain does a fine job of balancing niceties of every day life with the madness that she is trying to conceal until the time is right. Hiddleston combines the prowess as a suitor but with the class of a gentleman. He, too sees Edith as a means to an end. Charlie Hunnam (who worked with del Toro in Pacific Rim) is a doctor that has always carried the torch for Edith but to no avail. Hunnam does exactly what his role requires, but that is about it.
Crimson Peak has a lot going for it. It is beautiful to look at, well acted and directed by del Toro, but I just wish the script by del Toro and Matthew Robbins had been a little sharper. There is enough obviousness in this film and it hurts the any surprises that are in store towards the end. Still Crimson Peak held my interest and it reminded me a lot of the old Hammer Horror classics of the 70’s. They were not particularly good films, but they were ahead of their time and became cult classics. These are films that immortalized Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing and were very effective in creating a mood and tone that was very creepy. Crimson Peak seems to be inspired by those films and del Toro has succeeded in creating a very uneasy mood for his film, as well. I would also recommend Fernando Velazquez’s score, as it does enhance the scary elements of Crimson Peak, but does not overwhelm it.
Crimson Peak is not a great film but, for the most part, flaws aside it works, thanks to the essential ingredients of the acting, directing and cinematography. But this is not the film that people will remember del Toro for. It is also not a film that he will be hated for, either. It is a mixed bag, but Crimson Peak is decent enough to recommend especially with Halloween right around the corner.
Crimson Peak- ***1/2 out of 5
Crimson Peak- Rated R for violence and horrific images
Crimson Peak- Run Time is 119 minutes