After falling for and marrying the charming and mysterious Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) moves to England to live with her new husband and his overbearing sister, Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain), in their gothic manor, Crimson Peak. When ghosts start appearing to Edith throughout the manor, she takes it upon herself to investigate and learn the dark secrets within the house.
When Guillermo del Toro (director of Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Pacific Rim) announced that he was making a “gothic romance ghost story,” I couldn’t wait for October to get here.
Part of that’s because del Toro is amazing with visual storytelling, and I wanted to see the set design, costume design, special effects, and cinematography (which were gorgeous, but more on that later). But honestly, it was mostly because the current horror market is oversaturated with slasher flicks, torture porn, and low-budget handheld camera adventures. So I wanted some variety (because seeing movies every week means I sometimes see what seems like the same movie over and over).
Del Toro knows his shit. Crimson Peak‘s story takes place during the Victorian era (1837-1901), which was known for its sexual repression-themed literature and art. And you can see that represented throughout the movie in dialogue and design. Edith’s cloistered, virginal nightgown and long girlish locks. Lucille’s conversation with Edith about resilient moths devouring fragile, beautiful butterflies. The dark, cold English manor with parts that are “forbidden” for Edith to explore. The uncomfortably close relationship between Thomas and Lucille. The blood-red clay mixing with the white snow. Everything about this movie plays with ideas of purity, forbidden lust, and inner monstrosities, which makes it much more interesting as both a romance story and a horror story.
Speaking of sexual themes, del Toro gets full marks from me for a Tom Hiddleston sex scene (It’s like he’s been watching my dreams). Though the scene itself was brief, boy, this visual will stay with me…
Honestly, the only disappointing thing about Crimson Peak is that I found it predictable. And I don’t believe it’s because I watch and analyze movies regularly. Anyone could recognize and catch on to the obvious foreshadowing elements (like the camera focusing on the tea Lucille serves Edith, which is a dead giveaway that there’s something wrong with it). The same is true of the character arcs and plot (You’ll know who’s behind the murders almost immediately).
So does that mean Crimson Peak‘s writing is bad? Perhaps. But my guess is more that del Toro’s visual cues paired with writing that was purposely simplified to help the average moviegoer get over the “period piece” setting, dialogue, and look (which some people legitimately hate) is what led the movie to be predictable. The movie is still gorgeous and electrifying. It just comes with fewer surprises.
Overall, Crimson Peak is a visually-stunning Victorian thriller, but it’s not the “make-you-shiver” ghost story you were expecting (In fact, the only part of the movie that left me trembling was naked Tom Hiddleston). There are plenty of gory and/or creepy moments in the film, but unfortunately, the simplified writing paired with overly-obvious visual cues gives away the plot’s element of surprise.
Crimson Peak: B+
For my radio review of Crimson Peak on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 26:17 mark)