Crimson Peak Movie Review





Beware the Crimson Peak…

It’s that time of the year again, yes October, and it’s full of ghouls, monsters and horror movies to make your anxiety skyrocket. The newest concoction from Guillermo Del Toro is Crimson Peak, which isn’t a horror movie, but more of a mid-century mystery topped with a hint of supernatural influence. But that is not a bad thing, in fact, it was surprisingly fun and met my expectations. When you experiment in the paranormal and haunted house premise, as a director, you can either do it right or fuck it up terribly. As an audience, we have seen too many awful ghost films that are really cheesy or the effects are horrendous that make you want to never see one again. But Crimson Peak was not that type of film. The acting, premise, set and costume design, and overall cinematography were beautiful. It reminded me of being a young lad seeing Vincent Price’s House on Haunted Hill for the first time in the way that the film mesmerized me from the get go and the score captures the atmospheric intensity to draw the viewer in and never let them go. Guillermo Del Toro is notorious for trying different types of films, but I always get the overall presence of his work no matter what genre it is. Crimson Peak is what you could imagine after a Tim Burton film set was burnt and torn down. The use of charred opaques, somber undertones and gothic romance is what the overall composition of the movie portrays.


In the Victorian era, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is surrounded by death and the loss of her mother at a very young age. After the funeral, Edith’s mother reappears as an apparition, which looked like a CGI’ed version of the Reaper from Creepshow and warns her young daughter to “Beware the Crimson Peak.” What the hell is a Crimson Peak? Well you don’t have that answer until the second act, but will make more sense towards the very end of the film. As years pass, Edith has developed her own unique writing style and is writing a fictional story about ghosts, a metaphorical statement of her youth and experience with her dead mother. Edith is surrounded by wealthy, intellectual and reputable peers in New York, but that lifestyle never sat well with her ambitions to be an established writer. Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) is one of her closest childhood friends that has always taken a liking to Edith, but she always shrugs it off and doesn’t want to be part of his extravagant life. Dr. Alan’s mother did not like Edith and made remarks to her that “Jane Austen died a spinster,” and Edith responded with “I’d rather be Mary Shelley and die a widow” which was quite comedic and showed Edith’s quick wit and hardworking ambitions.


All of this changes when Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille Sharp (Jessica Chastain) show up in town trying to sell one of Thomas’s inventions. Edith’s hard working father Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) was not impressed by Thomas invention and his growing fascination with his daughter. Can you see pure evil in someone after first meeting them? I think so, Carter was on to something early on when he hires his handy private investigator Holly (Burn Gorman) to look into Thomas and Lucille’s past, and as you could imagine, they are not what they appear. Further into the act, there is a “mysterious” death that brings Edith on the verge of hysteria, where Thomas is there to support and tend to her every need.

Thomas and Edith end up getting hitched and moving back to his family’s estate in England, called “Allderdale Hall” which occurs during the beginning of the second act. This is where the rest of the film takes place. The mansion style estate is more of empty wreckage on the moors of England, compared to Victorian styled mansions of that time. From the first glimpse of the home and taking a tour inside of the decaying and the bleeding crimson colored clay walls, this mansion is a suitable home for newlyweds.


Of course, Lucille is living with the newlyweds and creeping over their shoulders every step of the way, giving a feeling of desperation and jealousy. Edith begins to see the apparitions, hear the groaning and creaking floors, and getting a familiar vision from her youth. She is trying to make sense of all the happenings in the house and bringing it up with her dear husband Thomas. But it’s all a figment of her imagination, or is it? Days pass and Edith becomes weaker and weaker as she falls into the mansion’s dark mystery and past, while falling asleep early in the night after being subdued to Lucille’s sweet southern tea. Lucille is a very bleak and enigmatic character with emotionless expression and has an odd fascination with a heavy key chain that she keeps by her side at all times. Eventually Edith is able to find the strength and courage to steal the keys and find out what is hiding behind closed doors.


What lies behind the closed doors is the truth behind Crimson Peak. The third and final act is nothing but suspense and reveals many secrets that have been hidden for many years about the Sharp family and their estate. We are exposed to the “too close for comfort” relationship between Lucille and her brother Thomas, their true intentions with Edith, and finding the answers to the ghostly phantoms lurking in the shadows of the desolate mansion. The last few minutes of the film really brought all of the loose ends together but did leave a few unanswered questions.

Is Guillermo Del Toro leaving it open for a sequel? I hope not because it brought a somewhat strong premise with hints of old school horror and mystery into it’s own canvas, that was painted beautiful from start to finish. I am not saying this is the greatest movie ever made, but it sure was one of the better films of the genre this year. With strong hints of Alfred Hitchcock, Tim Burton and Edgar Allen Poe gothic elements had a strong influence on the wardrobe and set design, but also with the meticulous camera work. There were wipe transitioning methods in between scenes, iris in and outs camera work and the numbing cinematography by Dan Laustsen (Silent Hill, League of Extraordinary Gentleman) that felt like the haunting nightmare of Silent Hill at times. Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Charlie Hunnam had a great on-screen dynamic and brought out personalities that we have not seen from these actors. The only really big issue I had with Crimson Peak is the CGI ghosts that resembled a black and red squid with tentacles. With Del Toro’s previous work such as Hellboy and Pans Labyrinth, I thought he would incorporate more practical effects to bring these ghastly ghouls alive, but wasn’t the case. Last, this was a film I have been waiting for since it was announced last year and met my expectations not just for the camera work and the mansion that had an unhinged life of it’s own, but for bringing classic horror and mystery elements into the film industry that is slowly dissipating.

Hopefully you will steer clear of the Crimson Peak.


Out of 5 Nerdskulls:
Story: 3.5/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 4/ Visuals: 5

I am giving Crimson Peak a 4 out of 5 Nerd Skulls.

Crimson Peak will be released in theaters nationwide on October 15th, 2015.

Check out the trailer below:

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