Guillermo Del Toro is one of the most famed directors to come out of South America. With hits such as Hellboy (1 and 2), Cronos, Pacific Rim and Pan’s Labyrinth, the man from Mexico has a series of excellent, auteur-driven hits under his belt. Does Crimson Peak follow in his older work and stand out amongst the others in theatres?
Crimson Peak stars Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnman and is directed by Guillermo Del Toro. When Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) marries Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), he takes her to live at his family home in Crimson Peak, where strange happenings from the past haunt the family house.
The story of Crimson Peak is set during the turn of the 20th century, and it feels very much like a pulp novel from the same time. Books like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (which gets name dropped within the first two minutes), The Picture Of Dorian Gray and Wuthering Heights, Crimson Peak owes a debt to each of them, melding several ideas from different sources to create a new film. It’s very old-style horror, so no loud-bang jump scares are in the film. The horror is suggested and rarely glimpsed, which may put off a few viewers who want their horror to be viewed and visceral. It’s a slow start, with the horror only really coming in around the halfway mark, but after the slow beginning, Crimson Peak really brings some of the best horror of the Halloween season.
Mia Wasikowska does an alright job as Edith, a woman getting increasingly scared and sick at staying in the old house, even though her dialogue hardly changes from whispers and whimpers. Tom Hiddleston plays his usual British self, and seems to be a lot more relaxed and confident in his role now he’s not shackled to the 12A rating of a Marvel property. But the stand out is an almost unrecognisable Jessica Chastain as Thomas’ sister, Lady Lucille. Chastain, like her on-screen brother, is having fun as the quiet but menacing Lady Lucille, and once act three starts and the house lets loose the horrors of the past, Chastain kicks her performance into high gear, with a brilliant final set piece set against the white snow daubed with blood red soil.
The red on white finale is one of the spectacular sets of the film, but Crimson Peak is full of standout moments. Tom Hiddleston remarks early on (and in the trailer) that the house atop Crimson Peak is alive, and through sweeping and tracking shots in the house we see something akin to Shadow Of The Colossus or Del Toro’s earlier work, Pan’s Labyrinth, as the house starts to breathe, move and even bleed. The missing roof allows the snow and leaves to continually flutter through and collect in the main hall, adding to the effect that the house is more one with nature than something that has been built. All these extraordinary sets add up together to make Crimson Peak one of the most visually striking films of the year.
My only complaint of the film would be one I touched on earlier, namely that the film takes a while to get going and the film is almost halfway through until it actually gets to Crimson Peak. I know this is in the style of the novels that inspired the story, but the film really does faff about with story points that don’t really add anything to character or narrative. Don’t mistake that for the film being overlong, it fits it’s running time well, but these scenes really could have added some back-story to the characters or lore to the world.
All in all, Crimson Peak is another cracker of a film for Guillermo Del Toro. While it’s slow start and lack of modern horror tropes might turn a few off, if you go with it you’ll get one of the most fantastical film this year. If you choose to watch any film in the cinema this Halloween, let it be Crimson Peak.
Score: 8/10 A good, old-fashioned ghost story from one of the genre greats.