An aspiring Jane Austen-type, 24-year-old Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) desires to be nothing but an author, but being a single woman living in the late 19th century isn’t the most inspiring of times. Having been terrified ten years prior after her mother’s ghost revealed itself to her in warning, Edith of course carried on with her life, but never quite forgot. After a new stranger in town named Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) comes through town in an attempt to convince Edith’s father Carter (Jim Beaver) that he’s come up with a better way to make clay, Carter isn’t convinced and is even more disgruntled when he finds out that Edith and Carter fancy each other.
After their quick courtship and marriage, Edith moves to England with Thomas and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), only to discover the worn down house and welcome is not what Edith expected it to be. Haunted by ghosts and secrets, Edith must make some discoveries of her own, while Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), Edith’s childhood friend and love interest also tries to work out the mysteries of the Sharpe family before it’s too late.
You can always rely on Guillermo del Toro to take a simple story and beautify it with spectacular production designs and cinematography. Without it, Crimson Peak would have not risen to such great heights. In terms of story, it isn’t anything you’ve never heard of before. But while it’s still a thrilling story with some of the creepiest ghosts you’ve seen in a while, the film isn’t simply just a horror movie. It is escalated by a more disturbing story of love, crazed obsession, and dysfunction on a level that makes the ghosts seem as sad as they are terrifying.
Del Toro takes the title of the film to heart and uses crimson not only for blood but as the backdrop color to the gray, black and white motif and it truly comes to life in its brilliant brightness in comparison to its dark surroundings. The film is tame in its horror, using it sparingly to paint a picture of despair, to deepen the mystery surrounding the house, and thankfully never just as a scare factor.
The dialogue is in good hands as the entire cast delivers layered words with underlying meaning without lavish exaggeration. Tom Hiddleston’s performance is restrained in the way his character is uneasy and fidgety at times. Mia Wasikowska is deceiving as part Jane Austen, part love-seeking woman of meager privilege who is in over her head. Hunnam is ever the gentlemanly “good guy”, a change from his usually more bad boy type, and Chastain susprises as a character who is just short of always losing her cool, but keeps her true feelings on lockdown.
There is nothing particularly special about the story being told save for the fact that it’s a familiar ghost story told in style and executed with grace, beautiful cinematography, and fantastic performances. Crimson Peak is a strong horror-romance period piece that lets its setting be a part of the film. The horror factor picks up in the second half of the film and while the story is simple, the story reveals are sure to surprise some. Thoroughly engaging, del Toro delivers a stylistically classy film that is sure to please.
Release Date: October 16, 2015 | Director: Guillermo del Toro | Screenwriters: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins | Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver | Genre: Horror, Fantasy | MPAA Rating: R for bloody violence, some sexual content and brief strong language