Director Guillermo Del Toro’s latest film opens with a shot of our main character Edith played by Mia Wasikowska all bloody and shook after what is seemingly a horrific and violent conclusion to the film then it tracks back to her childhood and goes through the events that lead up to the finale. Guillermo is without a doubt one of the most gifted directors, especially when it comes to visuals and set designs. His 2006 Spanish movie Pan’s Labyrinth is one of the most marvelous movies ever made and is his best work to date. I had heard mixed reviews coming into Crimson Peak, but I was wary as to not expect a full blown out horror film which is how the film was marketed as to get more attention, but it is anything but that. Pan’s Labyrinth was marketed as a children’s fantasy tale when it was really about the Spanish civil war and how our main character (Ofelia) was struggling to cope with reality and resorting to her fantastical imaginations which may or may not be real.
The first act of the film establishes Edith’s fear of ghosts after having witnessed one after her mother passed away when she was a child. She is now a writer in Buffalo, NY and the novel she is trying to get published is a love story with ghosts in it. As she describes, the ghosts are only a metaphor for the past and interestingly Edith’s novel seems to mirror the actual film in that it is not a horror movie at all. There are a few somewhat disturbing ghost scenes and the ghosts are unlike other ghosts I have seen in other films; there was something so humane about them and they are all very creepy and drenched in red. Edith lives with her caring father and they have a great relationship. Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain (Thomas and Lucille Sharpe) play siblings who just came from Birmingham for business; Thomas is trying to sell one of his new inventions in America after previous failed attempts in Europe. While dealing with Edith’s father in his business venture, Thomas pursues Edith with his British charm, but something is not quite right with the Sharpe siblings and it seems like they’re plotting something during their stay. Edith quickly falls for Thomas and they get married and move to England to stay at Thomas’ family mansion (Allerdale Hall) which is in the middle of nowhere. This mansion is gigantic, spooky and without a doubt as much of a character as anybody else in this film. The mansion seems like it’s under construction and there is always red clay that squeezes out of the floorboards to remind us that nothing good can come out from staying in this mansion. Thomas and Edith are accompanied by Lucille who is always lurking around holding the keys to all the rooms in the mansion and she doesn’t seem to approve of her brother’s new bride. There are supernatural entities that appear when Edith is stuck in the mansion alone and they don’t add much to the love story that is developing. The ghosts are not a threat to Edith at least not as much as the humans in this film, instead it plays out exactly like Edith’s book as they are used as a reminder for the past or a warning for what is to come.
The film moves very slow, but the visuals are breathtaking and the acting is great especially from Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain as the troubled siblings. I think the story is told in a manner which we have seen before and can be melodramatic at times, but the atmosphere that Guillermo creates in this film keeps you invested in these characters. I loved the third act of the film and I thought the film needed more of what made the ending great. I liked the film overall; it had the same structure as a lot of 90’s period piece films and it gave me the same delightfully creepy vibes that I would get while watching Twin Peaks. (7.5/10)