CRIMSON PEAK (USA/15A/119mins)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Burn Gorman, Jim Beaver.
THE PLOT: Young author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) has long since believed in ghosts, after her mother’s spectre appeared to her at a young age with a cryptic warning. Years later, Edith finds herself swept off her feet by the handsome, mysterious and charming Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). After tragedy strikes, Edith desperately wants to escape the memories of home, and sets out to make a new one with Thomas and his inscrutable sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), in a crumbling mansion that is filled with holes, memories and blood coloured clay.
THE VERDICT: There has been much talk of director Guillermo del Toro returning to the horror genre with ‘Crimson Peak’, after the action filled Pacific Rim. Bad news for horror fans then, since ‘Crimson Peak’ is certainly moody, atmospheric and filled with ghosts, but it is more of a Gothic mystery, than Gothic horror.
Mia Wasikowska returns to the type of role she does so well; young and polite, but knowledgeable and slightly feisty. Wasikowska is the heart and soul of the film, and she carries the story ably, although some of the decisions her character makes are simply baffling. Tom Hiddleston, as we all know, does creepy and charming incredibly well. Hiddleston dials back the Loki levels of sinister to a more manageable level, but makes it clear that there is a lot more going on under the surface of this character. Jessica Chastain is cold and correct as Lucille. Again, it is clear there is more going on with her than meets the eye and although it is fairly obvious what this is, it is safe to say this is the fault of the screenwriting as opposed to the actress. The rest of the cast is made up of Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver and Burn Gorman.
The screenplay, written by del Toro and Matthew Robbins, starts out promising a good old fashioned ghost scream fest, but after the strange warning from Edith’s mother’s ghost, the film turns its attention to the more mundane and earthly dangers of the Sharpe family. There is quite a lot of foreshadowing in the film – ‘Perhaps we only notice things when the time comes for us to see them’ opines Edith at one point – and although the film has a delightfully creepy feel, it soon becomes clear that the living are far more dangerous than the dead.
As director, it is clear that del Toro was channelling psychological thrillers from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, such as ‘Gaslight’ and ‘Rebecca’ in order to tell this tale of a young woman in a domineering house. The scares are actually few and far between throughout the film, and the ghosts lose their ability to make the audience jump once it becomes clear that they are not the ones to be feared. The film is well paced and beautifully designed and although there are times when it is easy to see where this gothic tale is headed, ‘Crimson Peak’ is still an enjoyable and visually sumptuous ride.
In all, ‘Crimson Peak’ is not the horror it is billed as; it is more a Gothic mystery inspired by ‘Gaslight’ and ‘Rebecca’. Still, the story is well told, the central trio of actors shine and although the story feels familiar and predictable at times, ‘Crimson Peak’ is for the most part, an engaging and beautiful film.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Crimson Peak
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.5engaging & beautiful
  • filmbuff2011

    When it comes to directing, Guillermo Del Toro operates on a ‘one for me, one for the audience’ basis. With Crimson Peak, it might be a case of both. This is a lavish, gothic horror story that roots itself very much in the past – where its key characters are trapped. In 19th Century America, Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is a young woman and an aspiring writer. She also has visions of her dead mother, who warns her to ‘beware Crimson Peak’. Her work falls under the watchful gaze of the dashing Thomas (Tom Hiddleston), an Englishman who has come to America on business with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Edith becomes bewitched with Thomas and accepts his offer of marriage. But her father rejects the idea – with some nasty consequences. Edith moves with Thomas and Lucille to their mansion in England. It’s a drafty, desolate place, with a hole in the roof that allows leaves and snow to fall through for extra effect. There’s also red clay in the earth that causes the snow to stain a crimson colour. It’s not long before Edith is once again plagued by visions of the dead – there is an unrestful spirit in the house that needs her help. Thomas and Lucille are not all what the seem… Co-written by Del Toro with Dragonslayer’s Matthew Robbins, Crimson Peak is a classy ghost story that recalls Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film Rebecca, based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier. It has that same atmospheric feel about a newcomer trapped within the confines of an old house, but Del Toro brings his own signature style to the screen. This is a gorgeously designed film, with the house every bit a character as the human ones. Everything in the house was designed for it, so you definitely get the feel that a lot of thought and imagination has gone into creating the world that these three characters find themselves in. Beyond the impressive production design, there’s three finely tuned performances that drive the plot along nicely. Hiddleston brings a vulnerability and a layer of underlying threat and Chastain channels Judith Anderson’s Mrs. Danvers as an overly watchful sister. But it’s Wasikowska’s film: initially making her character look fragile, she’s far more resourceful as the story progresses towards it’s bloody climax. Del Toro is a supremely visual director (the falling leaves and snow inside the house is a nice touch), but he also knows how to tell a good yarn. Even if it feels slightly familiar, Crimson Peak is one of those films that simply demands to be seen on the big screen and in the dark. It’s the horror film to beat coming up to Hallowe’en. ****

  • emerb

    Guillermo Del Toro’s lavish Gothic horror romance “Crimson Peak” hits the big screen just in time for Halloween. His style is evident right throughout this film, in particular the sets, costumes, camera work and effects. This is a movie about a young society woman who is an aspiring author and finds herself torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she succumbs to her passions and is swept away to the very mysterious “Allerdale Hall”, a house that turns out to be a horrific nightmare.

    Set in 1901, “Crimson Peak” begins in New York where American heiress and aspiring writer Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) spends her time focused on her writing, not worried about getting married. Her adoring and supportive father Carter (Jim Beaver) is a successful businessman, and he only wants whatever it is that she wants. Into her life comes a dashing and handsome British Baron, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who wants to sell her father a business proposition. He has come to Boston with his less congenial older sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain) seeking capital to help him realize the building of a “clay harvester,” a mining machine that will efficiently do the work it takes many men to accomplish. Thomas’s sales pitch falls flat, but love blossoms between Edith and Thomas. She finds herself instantly intrigued, breaking the heart of young long-pining Dr. McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) in the process. This displeases her perceptive father and when a detective delivers him disturbing news on the English couple, the old man pays the ultimate price for his interference in a horribly violent murder that’s made to look like an accident. Her father’s death and the money leave Edith free to follow her heart to England with Thomas. They are soon married and move into his crumbling English Estate, “Allerdale Hall”, a towering mansion built upon a seeping mound of blood-red clay in which Sharpe’s icy and conniving sister Lucille is firmly in control. Now a prisoner in a cold, dilapidated mansion, it isn’t long before Edith starts to wonder if the Sharpe siblings can be trusted after being visited by ghostly figures inside the mansion where she uncovers many secrets about their troubled past. All the while, the desperate Lucille is growing more anxious, jealous and hostile as she feels her brother’s affections slipping away from her.

    The fine cast all play their part with absolute conviction. Mia Wasikowska is a very talented actor and is perfectly cast here as the virginal, naïve beauty who only slowly realises the extent of the nightmare in which she has become entwined. As Edith’s sister-in-law Lady Lucille, Chastain gives an icy-cold, deranged and vivid performance which is delightfully unsettling. When we first see her, she’s disrupting a cocktail party in a deep red silk dress with a spiny back and scales, later, she feeds a butterfly to ants and in one of her most intense scenes, she feeds porridge to a helpless Wasikowska as she calmly describes her abusive father’s violent outbursts. She is a devious monster and it’s entertaining to watch her slowly revealing the sheer extent of her demented wickedness.

    “Crimson Peak” bears all the hallmarks of a grandiose gothic romance. Predictably, Del Toro’s attention to detail is consistently impressive and no period detail has been overlooked. It is visually rich in real­-world detail, from the elaborate costumes to the delightfully baroque mansion to the wandering ghosts, the air ever thick with a foreboding menace. Worth mentioning the fabulous costumes with Wasikowska in white nightgowns that emphasize her porcelain-doll looks and Chastain in sumptuous dark silks and velvets. “Allerdale Hall” itself is gorgeous and is the film’s centrepiece, built atop a deposit of valuable red clay which produces blood-red footprints in the snow, leaves drift down from a big hole in the roof, moths flutter about, dead flies cover tables, the basement features a set of giant vats full of the crimson clay and a portrait of the late Mrs. Sharpe dominates the sitting room. The eerie score by Fernando Velazquez, photography by Dan Laustsen, costume design by Kate Hawley, the spectacular production design of Thomas Sanders… the film is worth seeing for all this alone and the overall effect creates a constant sense of terror and dread which brings the film to life. “Crimson Peak” is a not a particularly fresh haunted house horror, the plot is rather predictable and traditional but the impeccable production design here is the real star. The atmosphere and the look outstrip the character development and the plotting but its appeal will be helped by the starry cast featuring Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston.

  • Randy

    A disappointing turn from Del Toro’s whose ambition implodes on itself. The drag script – poor dialogue, cardboard cut-out characters and hardly any romantic connection really let the film down. Its main assets are the titular house – impressive production design, and Jessica Chastain who plays her character with aplomb. The scares seemed to be going for a mix of practical and CGI effects but were hardly unsettling or scary. The creepy sound mix is ripped directly from the X-Files. No kidding! For real thrills and scares, one may need to revisit the classic haunted house movies and take the blank cheque book away from Del Toro. Perhaps he will return to form with a smaller budget to work with. 2/5