Crimson Peak Review
Director Guillermo del Toro has a special affinity towards the realms of horror in his moviemaking. The 51 year old director / screenwriter has touched upon this in several of his media projects, including his fantasy film Pan’s Labyrinth, his graphic novel adapation Hellboy (and its sequel Hellboy: The Golden Army), and in the FX television show The Strain (of which he produced). Last year, del Toro went big with the summer blockbuster Pacific Rim, bringing his own style in making a giant monster movie, which was both equally hefty in scale and in budget. Now Guillermo returns to the silver screen with a smaller and more imtinate horror feature Crimson Peak. Does the film resonate with horror chills or is it just another scary movie?
Edith Cushing, (Mia Wasikowska), a young woman with an ambition to become a writer late 19th century New York, is taken aback when a mysterious stranger named Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) arrives from England. Desperately seeking financial services to keep his clay mine operational with the new technology, Thomas is dimissed by Edith’s father, Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), but remains infatuated with his daughter. When Carter suddenly dies, Edith is left her father’s fortune and finds a new husband in Thomas as the pair travel to Thomas’s old and remote estate Allerdale Hall (nicknamed Crimson Peak) in England to live with his cold-hearted sister, Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain). While there, Edith discovers that the decprit mansion is haunted by ghostly spirts that are trying to communicate to Thomas’s new wife, urging her to research her husband’s past. As Edith uncovers the truth within Crimson Peak, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), a rejected suitor of Edith, journeys to find her in an attempt to prevent unspeakable horrors.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I will go on the record and say that I usually don’t like horror movies. I’m not discrediting the films (or the people who like them), but it’s just not a movie genre that I personally like. I’ve seen a couple here and there (teen slashers, supernatural thrillers, paranormal flicks, sci-fi horror features), but I usually tend not to watch them (I have a very vivid imagination, so most horror movies will definitely give nightmares). That’s why it’s a very curiosu thing that I was interested in seeing Crimson Peak. I saw the trailer for it and looked pretty interesting. Thus, I took a chance and (willingly) purchased a ticket to see the movie in theaters. After seeing it, I found that Crimson Peak was a very good horror film that went against the current status quo of the genre.
As I said above, Guillermo del Toro has special interest of horrors and monsters in his filmmaking. Thus, it comes at no surprise that the director would do such a movie like Crimson Peak. While most current horror movies are jostling for your attention with plenty of scare “jumpings” tactics, Crimson Peak respresents a return to the old school of the horror genre, focusing on setting up a gothic romance / horror that just representing a scary movie. To me, the movie’s story had more depth than the generic horror flick, which does elevate the movie above from the normal horror feature. Coinciding with that, while most current horror movies are sent in a contemporary setting, del Toro sets Crimson Peak up as a period piece, taking viewers to the late 19th Century in order to tell its tale. It’s an interesting set up and dele Toro uses that to the movie’s advantage, tailoring its characters and its set pieces to fit that fix point of time period quite well.
Guillermo has been known for his visual flair in his movies, so it comes at no surprise that Crimson Peak would continue that trend. The crimson ghostly sprits are smartly (and convincingly) rendered with CG effects and are definitely creepy to behold on-screen. What’s even more impressive is the ways that del Toro makes Allerdale Hall (Crimson Peak) come alive. A viewer can marvel at its beauty (wiped clean from its former glory ages ago by its decrepit appearance), but dele Toro gives the estate its own characteristic for the film. Examples of this are the red clay from the mines seeping into the walls and floors as if the house itself is bleeding and the exposed ceiling in the main hall where snow falls. Effect shots like those offer a picturesque to the film and add to the movie viewing experience to watching Crimson Peak.
Of the movie’s primary cast, actress Jessica Chastain delivers the best performance in her character of Lucille Sharpe. Chastain, recognizable from her roles in Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty and (more recently) in The Martian, seems perfect for the cold-hearted character with her stuffy persona and disdainful jabs at Edith’s friendship. Actor Tom Hiddleston has a more dynamic and sympathetic role in the movie as Thomas Sharpe as he is clearly torn between his relationship with his new wife (Edith) and to his sister. Though he does give a good performance, it’s a little bit hard to see Hiddleston outside his most recently famous role as Loki (Asgardian God of Mischief) from Marvel’s MCU movies.
Similar to Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam’s character Dr. Alan McMichael is good (acting as the most normal character in the group), but it’s a little hard to see him separated for his famous Sons of Anarchy role of Jax Teller. Probably the weakest of the bunch is Crimson Peak’s main female protagonist Edith Cushing, played by actress Mia Wasikowska. I’m not saying she does a deplorable job in the role, but the character of Edith could’ve been played by someone better. At the very least, Wasikowska does fit the part of filling out her costumes, making her outward appearance look as if she does belong in that time period.
Crimson Peak doesn’t have a large supporting cast as the mostly focusing on the four primary characters. There are only two minor characters worth noting in this category. Actor Jim Beaver does play his small part well as Edith’s wealthy father Carter Cushing in a very convincing manner (as if he belongs in that time period) and actor Burn Gorman as Holly, a hired private detective.
Despite its positives, Crimson Peak can’t escape the horrors of its own devices and genre-makeup. While I like the premise of the movie (and how the mystery behind it all comes together in the end), Crimson Peak is a little bit slow, especially in the film’s first act, and takes awhile for the narration to build up its own momentum. Additionally, with Crimson Peak being a horror feature, the movie can become slightly predictable. A lot of the genre’s twists and turns, which are commonly used, can be seeing coming and might possibly deflate the overall “surprise” during the film’s final act.
For better or worse, Crimson Peak plays by it creator’s rules and acts upon them within its own means. The feature acts as del Toro’s love letter to gothic horrors of yesteryear, offering a period piece that steep into telling a story (with horror nuances) rather than a gimmicky “In-Your-Face” horrors thrills that are currently being created for the genre. For that reason (and that reason alone), the verdict of favoring the movie will rest upon that answering that question. Personally, I liked it, which is definitely strange for someone who really doesn’t like horror movies. Though it was tad slow and a little bit predictable, Crimson Peak delivered at telling an intriguing story that featured some amazing production designs and great performances. Anyone looking for something different from “today’s” horror movies will definetly want to discover the mystery behind Crimson Peak.