By Adam Garcia
The 1-4-0: In #CrimsonPeak, Mexican director Guillermo del Toro crafts one of the most beautiful and terrifying horror films of the year.
The Gist: After marrying the charming and seductive Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) American heiress and aspiring writer Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) moves across the Atlantic to Sharpe’s remote gothic mansion in the English hills. Living with them is Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain), Thomas’ alluring sister and protector of her family’s dark secrets. Able to communicate with the dead, Edith tries to decipher the mystery behind the ghostly visions that haunt her new home. As she comes closer to the truth, Edith may learn that true monsters are made of flesh and blood.
What Works: Make no mistake; del Toro is a pulp director. From Blade 2 to the underappreciated Hellboy films to his masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro takes lurid pulp magazine stories and melds them with artisan craftsmanship to create unique pieces of cinema. That he can make Pacific Rim, a film about giant robots fighting giant monsters, one of the most strikingly beautiful films of 2013 is testament to that fact.
With Crimson Peak, del Toro marries Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, H.P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe to create one of the most haunting Gothic horror and unconventional romance in theaters. Where many modern horror films skew toward torture porn or cheap shocks, del Toro creates an overwhelming sense of wonder and tension that permeates the length of the film. Red clay oozes from the walls and floor of the titular Crimson Peak, while the sound design gives the house a breathing and creaking life. The ghosts themselves are terrifying and del Toro uses them sparingly, making sure every ghostly appearance is as shocking as possible.
The film’s central cast is equally excellent. Mia Wasikowska perfectly fits the role of Edith, in every way a heroine torn from a Jane Austen novel. From the moment she is on screen to the closing credits, the audience is invested in her journey. Tom Hiddleston plays to his strengths as the conflicted and tragic Thomas Sharpe. He is at once charming and haunting, and much like his work as Loki, he skillfully hugs the line between good and evil, leaving the audience both enamored and on edge. But it’s Jessica Chastain’s unhinged Lucille who is the most terrifying creature in the film. Her often-silent presence is disquieting and her rage leaves the audience at the edge of their seat.
What Doesn’t Work: (Mild Spoilers) The true nature of Thomas and Lucille’s relationship falls into the territory of cliché, and despite it’s taboo, in the era of Game of Thrones, it isn’t all that shocking.
Pay or Nay: Pay. Crimson Peak is the perfect film to see for the Halloween season. At once terrifying and hauntingly beautiful, it stands well above the cheap horror tricks of modern cinema, telling a macabre tale worthy of the literary classics that inspired it.
Rated: R for bloody violence, some sexual content and brief strong language.
Release Date: October 15, 2015
Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Director(s): Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Film Genre: Horror