Starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam
It’s been a while since Guillermo del Toro was attached to something worthy of praise. His crowning achievement Pans Labyrinth (2006) remains his best work to date. It was the bombastic Pacific Rim (2013) that introduced del Toro to a worldwide audience, which makes Crimson Peak, a much smaller project, feel like a bit of a refocus for the writer/director. Del Toro’s productions have always fallen within the realm of the horror genre. Unfortunately Crimson Peak isn’t scary enough for those seeking chills. The thrills are in the production design, costumes and Jessica Chastain that really validate this experience.
Prominent family Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) and his daughter Edith (Wasikowska) are first introduced to siblings Thomas (Hiddleston) and Lucille (Chastain) Sharpe during a business trip to Buffalo, New York. Tall, dark and handsome Thomas has the single ladies and their mothers in awe of him and with his pedigree as a European aristocrat. Edith, a social outsider, is unimpressed with the city’s new arrival, focusing instead on getting her latest story published. Thomas becomes infatuated with Edith, managing to win her heart just before a tragedy strikes, forcing his new bride to return with him and sister to England. The comforts of America don’t exist in the dark, damp and creepy Sharpe house. As the cold and dreary days pass, Edith becomes increasingly aware that something isn’t quite right with the Sharpe siblings.
Best horror film of the year, just not for the typical reasons associated with the genre.
Crimson Peak reveals the first fright before the opening title, yet 15 minutes into the film this original screenplay feels more like a Jane Austin adaptation than a horror movie, and that isn’t a complaint. The walls, exquisite costumes and every interior is bathed in golds and warm browns . . . that is until we are introduced to Lucille, playing melancholy on the grand piano in her blood red dress that takes up the entire parlor. “Something's not quite right about them,” Thomas confides in an associate. The production design in the New York scenes (the entire film shot on built sets in Canada) is an appetizer for the main course, The Sharpe Estate. Art Director Brandt Gordon (Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium) really sets the mood with the help of set decorators and the suffocatingly elaborate costume designs.
The story itself is simple, obvious and stereotypical, perhaps this is intentional so you can focus on the many other elements Crimson Peak has to offer (i.e. Panic Room, Gravity). The ghosts, nightmares and creepy noises (horror elements) are not as disturbing as the two extremely violent scenes in the film, one at the beginning, one at the end. No surprise, especially after her remarks on the intensity of the role, Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (The Help, The Martian) is one of the films main attractions. If the film had a bit more suspense and better screenplay it could have gotten a bit closer to masterpiece territory. As it is now, Crimson Peak is still the best horror film of the year, just not for the typical reasons associated with the genre.
High quality horror, layered in glorious shades of gothic grandeur.