Guillermo del Toro returns to the director’s chair in one of his mostly visually thrilling films to date. The marketing for this movie certainly played to the films supernatural side. But let’s get this out of the way right now – this movie is a Gothic Romance with a ghost, not a ghost movie with some Gothic Romance. So if you are looking for something that’s going to unnerve you or scare the piss out of you, this film is not going to deliver. And that was the first disappointment.
Crimson Peak is an atmospheric story about a woman and hopeful author of horror, Edith Cushing (played by Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland) that falls in love with a handsome stranger that’s a bit down on his luck, Thomas Sharpe (played by Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers). When Edith’s father unexpectedly passes away, she relocates her life with her new love and his somewhat cold and calculated sister, Lucille (played by Jessica Chastain, The Martian). In a mansion inherited by the Sharpes from their deceased mother, the siblings and Edith establish a home together at Allerdale Hall. Something isn’t right, however, as Edith begins to see ghastly figures…and the mansion bleeds, breathes – and remembers.
This movie has everything going for it. Great actors, a wonderful director, and a haunting time period. Crimson Peak starts off on a pretty strong note but it does slow down the pacing for what seems like nearly an hour before the story is shifted to the mansion. Once we’re at Allerdale Hall, we are given time to take in the sights and sounds of this massive dwelling (which is a real set created just for this film – no CGI trickery here). It’s beautifully shot through and through, and del Toro really sets the atmosphere perfectly. You know there is something wrong with this Hall, and del Toro ensures you feel like the mansion is alive with wonderful execution.
The other immaculate detail of this film was definitely the costumes. They are incredible. There is so much attention put into the materials, colors and accessories. This really pulls you into the gothic world that del Toro has conjured up. Some of the outfits are extremely elaborate, especially the dresses. A few of them use such a beautiful color pallet, like yellows, reds, blues, browns and blacks. They mix so well with the lighting and filters used throughout the film. The costume department deserves a huge applause for a job well done.
Nothing to spoil here that’s not shown in the trailers. There are ghosts, but they’re Guillermo del Toro style ghosts. If you’ve seen his previous works, such as Pan’s Labyrinth, you know what kind of supernatural creatures to expect. What was most amazing about these characters is that they are actually real people with some CGI added later to enhance the spiritual side of them. The ghoulish appearance, the remaining bits of something human, the movements – they are executed with prosthetics and actors. At first it’s hard to believe in these creatures, but they became acceptable as the story unfolded. You learn to appreciate the artistic license used with these ghosts when you watch the extra features and del Toro and crew discuss how it was all done. That all being said, the artistic license is strong and it does take away most of the terror you might feel had these ghosts been designed in a more traditional way. But it’s all effective in this world he’s created because they tie together well with the rest of the vibrancy and pallets used throughout the film.
Crimson Peak is a slow burn. It’s not an exciting movie but it’s a good movie. It’s a little inconsistent in delivery as far as identifying itself as a horror movie or a romance/tragedy because it’s a large mishmash of both. But what’s there is beautiful and it works. It’s just in that weird spot where some people will definitely be turned off by the entire thing if they’re going in expecting one thing and getting something else entirely.
The movie isn’t on the same level as Pan’s Labyrinth or The Devil’s Backbone, but it’s certainly one of del Toro’s finest works – and a return to his classical origins after his more mainstream and spectacle entries with the Hellboy series and Pacific Rim.
Have you watched Crimson Peak? What are your thoughts on it?