Review: Crimson Peak

“The horror was for love”

Arturo Hilario/ El Observador

“Crimson Peak”, Guillermo Del Toro’s newest original project that takes place in Victorian era Buffalo, is a beautiful gothic romance film that must be seen and experienced.

It’s 1887 and aspiring writer Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is trying to break into the gothic and literature circles that are very much controlled by males. Additionally, most of the publishing houses reject the notions that Edith should be writing horror novels, and she should stick to the romance genre.

Her father Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) is a well-off businessman that wants the best for her daughter, as does Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), a childhood friend who has more than friendship type feelings for Edith at this point.

At first the film could very well be a Victorian period piece, going about the everyday happenings of the society and a girl trying to be modern and in control of her career. One early scene is of Edith’s encounter with a departed family member’s ghost, this is the only inclination that there is a supernatural narrative afoot at first.

Eventually Edith falls for the captivating but mysterious Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who catches a glance at Edith’s writing while she types at her father’s office. Sharpe is in the US to rouse investors into his family’s fledging clay mines. The mine’s are at their home, Allerdale Hall, located in a remote territory of northern England. He comes accompanied by his brooding sister Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain) in a superbly played role.

Edith’s father Carter is one of the potential investors but is quickly suspicious of the brother-sister duo, saying he has a feeling about them that does not sit right. After hiring a professional detective to spy on them and dig up their pasts, Carter realizes that he has been lied to. Carter advises the Sharpe’s to go back to where they came from, and pays them a handsome amount of money to leave Edith alone. But just as suddenly Carter is murdered and in a whirlwind of storytelling Edith leaves her life in the US to go to Allerdale Hall alongside her new husband, Thomas. When they arrive in the extremely creepy environment (I’m talking about every last aspect) Edith finds this ‘dying’ 300 yea old house which creaks, moans and drips with red sludgy clay coming up from the floorboards and down the walls. This is where the movies shifts to the lush and cerebral ghost story, with hints of other genres to set this distinct mood.

At the center of this film is the themes of love, fear, death and growth. Within this there is a meshing of genres and to say that Crimson Peak is a straight horror movie is wrong. It’s some parts horror, and pretty brutal horror at that, and some parts fantasy and others romance. Without giving too much away these ghosts have humanity, they have pain in their faces and in their weary moans and gravely voices. One thing that makes these ghosts unique is that they are red, red as the soft clay that seeps through the decrepit house that is Allerdale Hall.

The visuals of the film are top notch, some of the most beautiful cinematography of the year, and of Del Toro’s career. The details of the film are fantastic, from the costumes, to the color schemes, down to the wallpaper of the house. Del Toro’s eye for color and details are ever present as we get to know the rooms of the house, with the very curious Edith walking around late at night like a Nancy Drew, wondering what the Sharpe siblings are up to.

The actors are all on point, showing that a truly old school creep show mystery can be a strong and poetic film as well. Chastain steals the show as Lucille, but all 3 of the main cast members bring their A-game to the screen.

The mysterious past, the unknown present and the secrets of how and why Edith’s father was murdered are all revealed within the film, a truly wonderful gothic horror romance that will undoubtedly become a staple of halloween. It’s unfortunate that “Crimson Peak” was snubbed by the Academy Awards (lately they haven’t been pleasing most people either) because it has a great original story, brilliant set pieces, and a wonderful score that keeps pace with how Edith evolves and transformers through her ordeals.

This isn’t Casper and this isn’t dumbed down versions of ghouls either. Del Toro has created his romantic horror equivalent to his fantasy magnum opus, “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

“Crimson Peak”, available on DVD/Blu Ray on February 9th ccomes with special features which enhance the experience of the film and let’s one look into the carefully crafted details of the story from the crew and the visionary behind the fim’s POV.