Crimson Peak (2015)
Crimson Peak (2015)

Genre: Supernatural Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 59 min.

Release Date: October 16th, 2015 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Guillermo del Toro Actors: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Leslie Hope, Jonathan Hyde, Doug Jones

 


 

“G

hosts are real. This much I know.” After her mother dies tragically from a disfiguring disease, ten-year-old Edith Cushing is visited one night by the matriarch’s ghastly black specter, which informs the little girl to beware of Crimson Peak (in one of the most frightening scenes and one that would seem far too traumatic for a child to ever recover from). Fourteen years later, at the end of the 19th century, Edith (Mia Wasikowska) now resides in Buffalo, New York, where she attempts to have one of her stories published. Although it’s not a ghost story specifically, it does include such spirits, intermixed with a romantic yarn. She’s snidely compared to Jane Austen, though she prefers to be thought of as a Mary Shelley.

When the stately baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) arrives in town to ask Mia’s father (Jim Beaver) for the capital necessary to manufacture a clay-harvesting drill, Mia is immediately infatuated with the handsome entrepreneur. But his abnormally solemn sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) isn’t so welcoming. And friendly ophthalmologist Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), who clearly has feelings for Edith, isn’t so easy to ignore. Nevertheless, after another tragedy in the Cushing family, the young woman is whisked away to Sharpe’s magnificent yet crumbling estate, Allerdale Hall, in Cumberland, England.

The set designs are simply phenomenal. If director Guillermo del Toro does anything with unquestionable expertise, it’s orchestrating and defining a foreboding atmosphere in majestic, eerie, mazy locations. The spooky, towering English castle is a stunning haunted house. Unfortunately, del Toro stuffs his picture with standard scares – including rapid, otherworldly movements in the background and across the edges of the screen; creaking doors and screechy wails; and sudden, loud noises or grisly visages popping into frame. If the environment wasn’t so amusing, the creepy segments would be terribly ordinary.

The rest of the story is also entirely expected. As if del Toro felt an obligation to include his trademark motifs, there are brief shots of graphic violence, twitching creatures that are more monstrous than ghostly, and even a fleeting sex scene (this one is more of a Hollywood requirement). Numerous other occasions are devised just for a jump-scare; when the visual symbolism, or poetic banter (nodding to Edith’s own fondness for metaphors in her writing), or pauses for gossiping ladies and jovial waltzing spread the terrors too thin, some randomly off-putting sequence is haphazardly tossed in. Alan reveals an unexpected interest in photographic latent images (or apparitions caught on camera), the mother-phantasm returns for a quick reiteration of her warning, and Lucille behaves as sinisterly and coldly as Mrs. Danvers.

Perhaps the biggest fault of “Crimson Peak” is the unintegrated feel of the supernatural haunting, the classical romance, the familial mysteries, and the slasher elements. These uneven contributors aren’t blended together with the right balance or precision, resulting in something of a Daphne du Maurier novel set in Pan’s labyrinth. The strong female lead is at once easily won over by a hurried love affair and seduced by Sharpe’s puzzling lack of explanations, but boldly unafraid of the mutilated ghosts that routinely pursue her or the knife-wielding assailants that attempt to silence her. At least all of these conflicting components take place in a wondrously nightmarish castle, full of falling leaves and snow, shadowy corridors, bleeding floors, and groaning walls.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10