Editor’s Notes: Crimson Peak is currently out in wide theatrical release.
There are a few constants in Guillermo del Toro films: beautiful set and costume designs, stunning cinematography and colorful characters. There is no denying that the set and costume design in Crimson Peak is breath-taking but unfortunately those are the high points that come from this film. Good news for those that love a good costume drama, bad news for anyone looking for thrills and chills in the month of October.
The framework for this film is fairly straightforward. A young woman named Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is single and on the verge of becoming a spinster in this time frame. She’s also a writer and carries an attitude that no man will advance her livelihood or happiness, until she meets the town’s latest business man, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Sharpe is in town shopping his trade. A potentially lucrative resource overruns his estate and with a hefty loan he can extract the resource and share with others. He’s a radical man where it appears oil and steam powers this world (Late 19th century?). Edith’s father Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) scoffs at the contraption and all but tells the newcomer to take a hike. There’s a party, Edith falls in love with Thomas and away they go to Thomas’ estate. Add to the mix Thomas’ sister, Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain) whose resting face is also the coldest bitch-face we’ve seen this side of Lena Headey in HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Jim Beaver delivers a stand-out performance as the over-protective rich father with a ton of pull in a small town. Always the character actor, it’s nice to see him land a role with more meat on its bones.
Del Toro asks a lot of his audience right from the beginning. Wasikowska and Hiddleston are among the finest actors you could ask for in a project like this, but their on-screen chemistry doesn’t translate. About the only thing Thomas does to woo Edith is smirk at her and compliment her writing. Maybe women were easier to please back then. One could make the argument that romantic chemistry isn’t required with these roles but the two of them should be fun to watch together. Chastain does a fine job delivering icey cold dialogue. Jim Beaver delivers a stand-out performance as the over-protective rich father with a ton of pull in a small town. Always the character actor, it’s nice to see him land a role with more meat on its bones.
The shortcomings of the film are masked by stunning visuals and breath-taking set and costume design. The period accurate costumes are remarkable, making it easier to sink into this world. The Cushing’s home is a character in itself. There are multiple levels, tons of rooms, a hole in the ceiling that adds to the atmosphere and a piano room that manages to stay cold to Edith and to the audience even though it has a roaring fireplace. The mansion/castle is haunting in appearance and offers a fair number of ghosts and images to up the creep factor. A line may be drawn in the sand at this point. Crimson Peak isn’t a true haunted house film and doesn’t try to be one. Del Toro told the Fantastic Fest audience (where this reviewer first watched this film) that he aimed to make a gothic romance. There are elements that may haunt or scare audiences, but it’s not a scary movie.
Crimson Peak isn’t a true haunted house film and doesn’t try to be one.
Crimson Peak enters the genre environment with ghost sightings, spooky nightmares and some splattery blood sequences. These moments are few and far between. It’s difficult to criticize a film against the marketing of the film because the marketing department certainly had another vision for this feature. Even if we were told in the beginning not to expect a horror film, Crimson Peak wouldn’t stand on its own. The actors look beautiful while they deliver their dialogue, at times it is an absolute blast to watch Wasikowska, Hiddleston and Chastain trade blows in a free for all of talent. Crimson Peak doesn’t work because the romance isn’t romantic enough, and the horror elements aren’t horror enough. Crimson Peak is merely ok. It’s not a bad film by any means, it’s just not that fun to watch and you will forget about it moments after it’s over. Because of all the names involved many gladly fork their money over, I just hope you enjoy it more than I did.
Crimson Peak is merely ok. It’s not a bad film by any means, it’s just not that fun to watch and you will forget about it moments after it’s over. Because of all the names involved many gladly fork their money over, I just hope you enjoy it more than I did.