Crimson Peak: Stunning Visuals Can’t Hide Cracks in Del Toro’s Predictable Gothic-Romance
Charlie HunnamJessica Chastain...
Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo Del Toro's latest fantastical tapestry has been much anticipated, though its arrival has been met with disappointment from all quarters. While Del Toro’s films have largely managed to balance style and substance, Crimson Peak is a little light on the latter. The horror film is undoubtedly pretty to look at; however, there doesn't seem to be too much of anything hiding beneath its gorgeously envisioned and beautifully crafted gothic aesthetic.
Opening in late 19th century New York, the story is centred on young would-be author, Edith Cushing (Wasikowska), who lives in an old townhouse with her overly-protective father and prominent businessman, Carter Cushing (Beaver). Her rather peaceful and idyllic world soon takes a dark turn when she meets mysterious stranger, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston); a British baronet who has come to speak to her father about funding for his latest clay mining invention.
Sensing that something is not quite right with the baronet and his eerie-looking sister, Lucille (Chastain), it isn’t too long before Edith fall’s for his charms. Eventually marrying, the two go to settle down in northern England in a rundown mansion, which the locals refer to as Crimson Peak thanks to its scarlet red clay grounds. Her new home’s eeriness is cofounded further when she starts receiving mysterious warnings about the Sharpe family.
Co-scripted with Matthew Robbins, the gorgeous cinematography and the fantastically detailed production design is what gives Crimson Peak any value, though there isn’t much else to speak of. The lack of tension, terror and overall fear is Crimson Peak's biggest flaw; the ghosts in the film also never really find their place in the overall grand scheme of things and the predictable twists, which are painfully obvious from the story's very beginning, dampen the viewing experience. Adding salt to the wound, the talented cast is poorly utilise; with the exception of Wasikowska's convincing performance of a frightened young soul, Hiddlestone, Hunam and even Chastain aren’t given room to own their characters, with Chastain in particular comes across as an unintentionally funny ball of creeps.
Presenting itself as more of a period-piece than a straight out horror, the craftsmanship of Crimson Peak is top-notch and its superiorly lit gothic-horror backdrop serves as a perfect setting for something truly frightening and terrifying to happen. But, unfortunately, nothing ever does. There’s a sexuality and passion – inspired by the gothic romance genre of the 1940s Hollywood – bubbling beneath the stunning surface of Crimson Peak, but it never really finds its way into proceedings in an affective way.