Film review, by Claire Durrant, of the gothic story about a young girl moving in to a new home with her husband and sister in law. She soon discovers that there is more to the siblings and their house, especially when spirits begin to haunt her.
Director: Guillermo del Toro. Legendary Pictures.
Cast & credits
Producer: Guillermo del Toro, Callum Greene, Jon Jashni, Thomas Tull.
Writer: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins.
Camera: Dan Laustsen.
Music: Fernando Velázquez.
Sets: Thomas E. Sanders.
Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman.
Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) is an aspiring writer who likes to remain isolated from others. That is until the arrivals of Thomas and his sister Lucille Sharpe (Hiddleston and Chastain,) two English aristocrats seeking American investors for a mining invention. Edith finds herself attracted to the seductive Thomas, and soon after they are wedded and whisked away to the Sharpe’s mansion in England. Within the house lies deep, hidden secrets, and as Edith begins to explore the floors, she soon begins to question what is more terrifying; the ghost sees been seeing or her new family.
When I first heard that this film was being made, it became one of my most anticipated films of the year. After Pacific Rim (2013) del Toro is going back to his roots, and is making a dark, chilling movie again?! Yes, please! Oh, and the trailer looks so deliciously creepy. This is going to be one of the scariest films of our time right? Well….no. Not really. However, this is by no means a disappointing film, it just wasn’t what I expected.
Early in the film, Edith is discussing the novel she is writing. She states that it isn’t a ghost story, but rather a story with ghosts in it. That scene is very much an obvious message from the director to his audience of what to expect from Crimson Peak. This film is in no way a typical horror film, but rather a film that happens to have supernatural elements to its narrative. The ghosts are effectively creepy, they just are not utilised to be a main aspect of the film.
The setting however is hugely important to the film’s atmosphere. Allerdale Hall is beautifully grotesque. The castle is destroyed; the roof has a massive hole in it, which lets in insects and weather, the walls are decayed, the pipes are rusty, and the building in slowly sinking in to red clay (thus Crimson Peak.) Overall, this gothic mansion with its ghostly inhabitants could very much be something out of a Mary Shelley or Edgar Allen Poe prose, and fits perfectly in to a classic British ghost story. The set designer, cinematographer and director have succeeded in creating a visually stunning film. Consequently, it also shows what the film’s big issue is; this film is very much a style over substance type, which del Toro is becoming notorious for doing.
The plot is very basic. It is a standard story of a girl solving a mystery involving the house and the sinister people she’s living with. Hitchcock told it with Rebecca in 1940, and it can also be similarly seen in The Skeleton Key (2005.) The reveal of The Sharpe’s motives is simple and quite underwhelming. There are some disturbing revelations about the siblings, but in the end, I was never shocked and instead was left wanting more. Luckily, the film had great performances to make up for its storyline.
The Sharpe’s are the two most interesting characters in the film. Hiddleston and Chastain’s performances show why they are currently two popular actors in the industry. Thomas is charming and sensitive, and yet is still mysterious and shows instincts of great anger and passion. Lucille on the other hand is not as difficult to understand. From the moment we are introduced to her; with her cold stare and arrogant demeanour, you ultimately take an instant dislike to her character. Chastain must have had so much fun playing Lucille. She truly is the most uncomfortable element of Crimson Peak. I’d rather deal with ghosts at my door than her icy hostility.
Mia Wasikowska’s Edith is a tough one to decide on. My problem with Edith is not the acting but rather the character. In the role of narrator, she does play it well. We do begin to root for her to one, solve the mystery and two, survive. When we are introduced to her, socialites tell her she will die a spinster like Jane Austen, in which Edith replies that she would rather die like Mary Shelley; a widower. Edith is independent, strong willed and witty. This got me excited to see how a character like this would behave in the rest of the film. Sadly, what I got was expected.
As soon as she steps in to Allerdale Hall and the creepiness of the house begins to show, Edith become the stereotypical, feeble and helpless girl who slowly walks towards the noises and shadows instead of staying put. I would have liked to have seen more of the snarky Edith, especially in the scenes with Lucille. But alas, Lucille is just too disturbing to fight against, which is understandable. That is until the last act.
The climax is probably the best part of this film. It’s bloody, gory, and intense. A true del Toro finale, and what the audience has been waiting for. With that in mind, those expecting fast jump scares and cheap thrills like in most modern day horrors may be disappointed with this slow paced film. However, if you’re a fan of hammer horrors, gothic stories and del Toro’s work, then please do go and immerse yourself with this aesthetically stunning film. Just don’t go in expecting the next Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).
See the official trailer on Youtube.