REVIEW: Crimson Peak (2015)

Universal Pictures – Theatrical Release Poster – Crimson Peak

The following is a review of ‘Crimson Peak’, a Guillermo Del Toro film.

Guillermo Del Toro is a fastidious filmmaker, and has been known to master the horrific and the gothic in both his writing and directing. Del Toro is also a visually focused director, and Del Toro is at his best when he is able to build his storytelling on the strength of a beautiful set. Why am I telling you this? Because it pleases me to say that Del Toro is back. Having now seen Crimson Peak, it pleases me to state that Guillermo Del Toro has not crafted a more beautiful world since his 2006 fantasy masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth.

Guillermo Del Toro’s most recent attempt at gothic fiction, Crimson Peak, follows Edith Cushing (played by Mia Wasikowska), a young author, who is certain of the existence of the supernatural. Edith is not like every other girl, and suitors soon notice this, as they become captivated by not just her beauty but her character. One of these suitors, Sir Thomas Sharpe (played by Tom Hiddleston), eventually seeks her hand in marriage, but is thwarted by her father (played by Jim Beaver) who is fairly unimpressed with Sharpe.

After Edith’s father dies, she leaves America and travels with Thomas to his home country, England. Thomas lives with his sister, Lucille (played by Jessica Chastain), in a crumbling mansion, which holds many secrets, and this becomes Edith’s new home. But when Edith encounters multiple ghosts in the mansion, the secrets of the house start to reveal themselves.

Now, here’s the thing. If you’ve only seen the trailers, and not heard Del Toro speak of the project, you may think this is a typical horror film – with jump scares aplenty. Perhaps this could look like a very generic horror film, but that is not what Crimson Peak is. This film is more gothic poetry, than it is simple horror – it has a message and a beauty to it. And while it does not shy away from some jump scares, it definitely does respect its audience quite a lot.

Del Toro makes sure to add the certain sense that you would want from gothic romanticism. You have the classic pure and innocent young woman, a tyrant, heroics, spirits etc. But the most important gothic trait of them all, the setting, is the real star of the film.

The Sharpe mansion is its own character, and every inch of the house adds to the terror present in the film – its frail attic, its haunting exterior, as well as its classical interior all play into the very specific style of the film. As such, the biggest stars of the film are not the writers, the director, or the actors – but, in fact, the production designer, art director, and the set decorators. This film, quite frankly, would not be this great without the excellent mansion.

But we must also commend the performances given by Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston. Hiddleston and Chastain are simply perfect as the Sharpe siblings, with the former having a sweet sincerity to his character, and the latter owning a sharp delivery as the character reveals more and more of herself. Meanwhile, I wasn’t as impressed with Mia Wasikowska and Charlie Hunnam – with them both feeling somewhat miscast.

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10Crimson Peak is a beautiful gothic ghost story, and one of Del Toro’s best films.

I’m Jeffrey Rex