Movie Review: Crimson Peak

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An aspiring American writer gets swept off her feet by a broodingly handsome British lord, but ominous portents warn her that all is not as it seems at his home on Crimson Peak.

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Guillermo del Toro, 2015

Years after her mother’s untimely death, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is trying to get her book published. Haunted by the spirit of her mother, Edith writes her ghost story avidly. Despite support from her mining magnate father Carter (Jim Beaver), Edith finds that few people take her seriously. That is, until she meets debonair English baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Thomas is looking for investors in his mining invention. Edith is attracted to his romantic and impulsive nature, but Carter is suspicious. Then, in the aftermath of Carter’s mysterious death, Edith marries Thomas. They move to his dilapidated home in England, a huge, sinking mansion called Allerdale Hall, where he lives with his intense sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). But things are not as they appear at Allerdale Hall, as Edith discovers when she starts seeing ghosts at night.

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Crimson Peak is Jane Eyre via the imagination of Guillermo del Toro. It’s a melodramatic Gothic romance with cool-looking ghosts in a cool-looking house, and it’s an awful lot of fun. Del Toro has a flair for visual storytelling that not a lot of horror directors can match, and he goes full-bore with the lush mansion location. The first third of the film is set in America, and the melodrama borders on the silly fairly often; the cinema I was in was full of people laughing or giggling at some of the courting scenes. Some of the lines are downright absurd – Guillermo del Toro’s writing in English is never as strong as his Spanish, it seems. Fortunately, we don’t spend too long in America – though there are a few cuts back to Charlie Hunnam’s character that really break the tension of the rest of the film, sadly to its detriment. The house becomes another character in the film (again), and the ghosts climbing out of the walls and through the walls feel like an extension of the crumbling manor. The tension between its three inhabitants mounts as the film progresses.

The three leads all do an impressive job in this film. Mia Wasikowska makes Edith strong and swooning, independent and caring, brave and vulnerable. Tom Hiddleston is in fine form, going full romantic hero in his black suits and loose curls. Edith’s swift fall is very believable when you’ve got Hiddleston to play your mysterious suitor. Jessica Chastain does her best with Lucille, portraying the emotions and the intensity if not the British accent. In fact, of the entire cast, there are very few actors acting in their own accents – only Hiddleston and Jim Beaver in the main cast – which has muddled results. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to be distracted by the pretty, pretty costumes when the accents aren’t up to snuff. Oddly, Crimson Peak really isn’t scary. It’s a story with ghosts in it, rather than a ghost story, to paraphrase Edith, and while the ghosts are cool it does sort of take the wind out of the sails of the over-the-top finale. Still, Crimson Peak is a fun, pretty movie.

Crimson Peak on IMDb

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