Louise Clancy, a UCC student spending a year on Erasmus in the University of Sussex, reviews Guillermo del Toro’s latest offering, Crimson Peak.
Crimson Peak is a gothic romance horror set in Victorian times starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, and Jim Beaver; and directed by the critically acclamied Guillermo del Toro (who also directed Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim).
Set in 1901, young aspiring author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) falls for the charming English mine owner Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) while on his travels to America to help gain capital for his mining machine. Much to the disapproval of her wealthy father Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) and her childhood friend Dr Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), Edith marries Sir Thomas and moves to England to live in his dilapidated family mansion, Allerdale Hall, with her new husband and his aloof sister Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Before long, Edith grows suspicious and frightened of strange, mysterious beings who roam the house at night. She is determined to find out who or what they are and why they haunt the mansion, and the terrifying secrets both the house and the people in it are hiding.
One of the first impressions the viewer gets from watching Crimson Peak is that a lot of the aspects of the film are greatly detailed including dialogue, character dynamics, costumes, and locations that makes the late Victorian era setting come to life. It is also littered with 19th century literary references that would make any English major proud to understand (including myself) such as Jane Eyre, Dracula, and The Fall of the House of Usher. Even as an obvious cultural homage to the gothic romance horror genre, Del Toro still manages to give originality by giving a heroic focus on Edith and adding a surreal darkness to the already saturated pantheon of things that go bump in the night.
In comparison to other horror films it is not a strictly frightening film that would cause nightmares, however it has enough strange and shocking moments that would grab the viewer’s attention and attempting to figure out what will happen next. Crimson Peak slowly builds up suspense throughout the first half of the film and pays off brilliantly with a tense climax.
The main cast is flawless in each of their respective roles, that one can find it hard to imagine that Emma Stone and Benedict Cumberbatch were almost in the finished product of Crimson Peak as Edith and Sir Thomas respectively. The chemistry between Wasikowska and Hiddleston is entirely believable; with some scenes that will cause Hiddleston’s fanbase swoon (including myself). Most notably the contrast between Edith and Lady Lucille’s characteristics is very fascinating to watch unfold on screen.
Along with Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, Crimson Peak can now be added to Guillermo del Toro’s filmography of gothic horror masterpieces.