Crimson Peak: A Gothic Fantasy

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Courtesy of Legendary Pictures

Thomas Sharpe and Edith Cushing step into Allerdale Hall, a massive three story set with a working elevator.

From the moment the opening credits roll, it is very clear that you are watching a Guillermo del Toro film.

Like his visually stunning “Pan’s Labyrinth” a decade earlier, “Crimson Peak” feels like a classic story we should already know. Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is the daughter of an American business man and aspiring author who prefers ghost stories to romance in the Victorian era.

From a young age, Edith could see ghosts and her mother’s ghost visits to give her warnings about the mysterious crimson peak. She meets an English baronet, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain.) She marries Thomas and they go to live at his decaying estate, Allerdale Hall.  Edith is soon haunted by the ghosts of Thomas’ murdered wives that roam the home and wrapped in a mystery about her new husband and sister-in-law that results in a bloody and truly horrific fantasy.

What I loved about “Crimson Peak,” and there was a lot to love, was how familiar it felt. It felt like a story that had been written long ago that everyone was forced to read in high school. Anyone who read and loved Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights” or Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” by candlelight would recognize those elements in “Crimson Peak.” The only downside was the, for lack of better phrasing, simple plot. And what I mean by that is, if you have never read a book or seen a movie before, then you will be shocked by the ending. The good news: no crazy M. Night Shyamalan-level twists.

What really made “Crimson Peak” stand out were the intricate costumes and gorgeous cinematography. The costumes are so detailed and beautiful, Hot Topic will have copies ready for purchase soon.

The visuals are second to none, they are a marvel to look at; it’s like gothic candy. I expect no less from del Toro. The scenes in the snow with the red clay look amazing and make up for the modest plot.

What helps elevate this film from dark fantasy into pure horror are the performances. Chastain is terrifying, a quintessential Victorian villain, while Wasikowska is a classic Victorian heroine, up there with Lizzy Bennet and Jane Eyre, with a few modern additions. Hiddleston is charming as ever and it is nice to see him play a character other than Loki. Please can Tom Hiddleston be in more movies?

The ghosts also don’t help make this film anymore lighthearted. They are terrifying smoke creatures that look like decomposing zombies. Again, expect no less from del Toro. I’m still forming theories about why the ghosts are different colors; red, white and black. So far, I think it has to do with the manner of their death and their willingness to pass on or stay put.

But the one thing that’s been nagging on my brain: I concede that the house is decrepit and sinking into the ground, but they couldn’t fix the damn hole in the roof? There’s a massive hole in the roof right as you enter the home. If the Sharpes were only marrying for money, and then murdering the spouses, why couldn’t they fix the hole in the roof? Was it so del Toro could have an absolutely stunning set piece that allows snowfall inside? Beautiful as it is, it is the least realistic aspect of this movie; and there are ghosts wandering around.