Film Review: “Crimson Peak”

Photo Courtesy of AceShowBiz
Photo Courtesy of AceShowBiz

An imperfect but wholly unique vision of Guillermo del Toro shines with a dedicated cast and sensational ending.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam
Rated: R
Release Date: October 16, 2015

Drenched in a deep red hue from the start, “Crimson Peak” begins with the bones of a horror film. A young Edith Cushing, played by Mia Wasikowska, lies in bed after her mother’s funeral, yearning for a shoulder to cry on. Instead of receiving a sympathetic ear late in the night, she’s warned by a skeletal ghost shrieking, “beware of Crimson Peak!” Edith cries for help and no one comes to her rescue. Alone in the world with no one besides of her titan-of-industry father Carter Cushing, played by Jim Beaver and an obtuse warning and the scare of a lifetime, Edith turns inward and begins to write horror. Years later, as a young woman and in spite of her talent, she’s shot down by every publisher for the same misguided notion — “women don’t write horror.”

The ghosts return soon after the Old World-handsome Sir Thomas Sharpe, played by Tom Hiddleston, appears, who begins to whisk Edith away by praising her work. Failing to use the potential energy of this romance, a lack of suspense and jerky pace in the overly-long first act pulls us out of Guillermo del Toro’s exquisitely designed and ornate world. Extensive table setting becomes all too grating for a bit. The story slogs in the first third with the exception of some patented del Toro extreme facial trauma and a ballroom dance that introduces the true star of the film, Lady Lucille, played by Jessica Chastain. The removed and exceptionally bitter sister of Thomas, Lucille underlays every word with a sense of cunning and spiteful wit for those she dislikes, namely anybody without the Sharpe name. An already strained relationship between brother and sister only worsens as Thomas falls for Edith and returns with her in tow to the Sharpes’ dilapidated estate, known to locals as Crimson Peak. This is all against the likings of a decidedly serviceable Charlie Hunnam as Dr. Alan McMichael, Edith’s confidante and love interest who begins to suspect the intentions of Sir Thomas.

Finally, a jarring change of scenery from the bustling streets of the city to the grim fog and hills of England manages to make things more lively. The film shines bright after the first act. Shaking off the offbeat pacing and bringing in tighter editing, “Crimson Peak” focuses itself by managing a great balance with the elements it’s composed of: off-key romance and horror. The sense of wonder and intricate design from del Toro’s magnum opus, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” travel through the veins of this film, even if it’s slightly diluted. We rarely leave the estate, and yet we never feel confined, with a new door or vat to fear at every turn. Production values shine with the flamboyant costumes and character designs for the myriad of monsters.

The level of technical craftsmanship is only met by the level of insanity in the final act. “Crimson Peak” evolves into its highest form by co-opting the style and action of a gory 70s slasher, getting blunt with knives. The unsightly spectre of the first act is nowhere to be seen, a distant memory as the ensuing action and giddy thrills dazzle with house-wide chases, damaged appendages and the blessed gift of even more facial trauma.

 

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