Crimson Peak (2015) Review
Writers: Guillermo Del Toro and Matthew Robbins
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston
Certificate: 15 Running Time: 1hr 59 Mins
‘Ghosts are real, that much I know. I’ve seen them all my life…’ The cryptic opening line of Del Toro’s Crimson Peak is a tantalisingly macabre confession that claws open the jaw of a beast before spiralling into a chain of wicked deception and intolerable cruelty. It’s a luxuriant Gothic romance that is burdened with unresolved horrors of the past. Despite its vulgar and predictable outcome, Del
Toro’s film is a visual marvel that hypnotises with its spectacular and authentic production design. It feels like stepping back in time to Walpole’s original gothic novel Castle of Otranto (1764), it’s an immersive and authentic environment with the great castle displaced by the intimidating spectre of Allerdale Hall. The tainted mansion is a character in its own right that serves as the Sharpe’s lair of entrapment: ‘A house as old as this one becomes, in time, a living thing. It starts holding onto things… keeping them alive when they shouldn’t be. Some of them are good; some of them bad… Some should never be spoken about again’. Sitting atop a red clay mine, the rotting edifice of the house is a stark reminder that greatness once existed for the Sharpe family; it is a decayed remnant of a previously thriving world that is now a cemetery of past fortune. A literal depiction of a bleeding monster in need of resurrection by any means necessary.
British siblings Thomas (brilliantly played by Tom Hiddleston) and Lucille (Jessica Chastain) Sharpe are on the hunt for investors in the USA to fund their clay mining proposition. In their efforts to find a suitor, budding author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is lured by the charms of Thomas. With a fountain of wealth at Edith’s disposal, Thomas’ intentions are murky from the outset. It’s a grand seduction that wears a romantic smile and is
able to conceal its devilishly pointed horns from plain sight. The relationship between the siblings in this pursuit is tinged in strangeness; as the plot thickens, greed clashes with infatuation whilst the past rears its ugly head to forewarn of the perils of ‘Crimson Peak’. It’s a gothic romance that wears its dark heart on its sleeve which often results in a detachment from reality and makes it all feel a tad silly. A work unashamedly inspired by the likes of Daphne Du Maurier makes little compensation for the modern generation, kudos to Del Toro for sticking to his guns but prepared to suspend disbelief to enhance the experience.
One could argue its style over substance in the extreme. Characters are often swallowed up the visual majesty of Crimson Peak but with the acting talents on show there is enough here to quench the thirst. The anticlimactic resolution descends into a fit of hysteria and doesn’t have the subtlety of Pan’s Labrynth or The Devil’s Backbone; instead, the emotion builds up and rips through the screen with flashes of bloody violence. Were all haunted by the past and have our own ghosts that ride our train of thought, some can be vanquished others fester and almost become a part of us. Del Toro remains the master of ‘beautiful horror’.