crimson peak | guillermo del toro | matthew robbins | mia wasikowska | jessica chastain | tom hiddleston | ghost | ghosts | drama | fantasy | mystery | romance | thriller | united states | canada | charlie hunnam | jim beaver | doug jones | haunted | haunted house | gothic
Film: Crimson Peak
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston
This film is one that when I first heard about it, I was excited. I’m a fan of Guillermo del Toro and at the time, I’d seen like Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and Mimic. Since then, I’m much more versed in his works. I will be honest, the first time I saw this I was lukewarm on it. I knew it was good, but I was expecting something different, which is on me. I’ve now given it a second viewing as part of the Summer Series for the Podcast Under the Stairs. The synopsis is in the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers.
We begin with voice-over narration telling us that ghosts are real. The voice we hear is of Mia Wasikowska. We then see her face as she has a cut on her cheek. She looks like she has been through a lot. We then see the opening credits that end up in front of a book entitled ‘Crimson Peak’ and it opens. From here she tells us about the first time she saw a ghost. She stated that her mother died when she was young of black cholera. They had to have a closed casket. She was then visited by her as a ghost. The ghost is actually Doug Jones and looks very creepy. The ghost warns her to beware of Crimson Peak.
It then informs us we are in Buffalo, New York back in 1887. Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) is walking across the muddy ground. She enters a building and heads up for the second floor. There she meets with a doctor that she is quite fond of, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam). As they are talking, his mother comes down who is all about society, played by Leslie Hope. Edith is mocked by the ladies who are talking about a baronet from Europe because she wants to be a writer. She does have a good witty comeback for them and also we see she is quite progressive in his thoughts at the time.
We see her doing some corrections on her story before they are read by Ogilvie (Jonathan Hyde). He gives her some feedback, which it needs to be more of a love story. She relays this to her father, Carter (Jim Beaver), who gets her a gift of a new fountain pen. She doesn’t seem to like it as much as he hoped.
The next day she meets the baronet while she is typing her story at her father’s offices. His name is Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). He is there to give a presentation to the men that run the company including Mr. Cushing. It doesn’t go well though when Carter doesn’t like the machine he is pitching to them and doesn’t care of Thomas either.
That night there is a ball that is going on and Edith helps her father get ready for it. Alan shows up to go with him to it and they comment on how Edith would be the belle of the ball if she came. They head off. Edith goes back to working on her story when she is visited by another ghost, warning her again. She is terrified when her maid comes in, telling her Thomas is downstairs, wanting to see her. She tries to send him off, but he convinces her to come to the ball.
At the ball, we get to meet Thomas’ sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). The two of them are quite close. Thomas shows to all there that he’s interested in Edith, much to the disdain of her father. He looks into these siblings and finds some troubling information. He tries to pay them off, but Carter is murdered in the process. With him gone, Edith marries Thomas. Together with his sister, they go to Ardelle Hall. It is here that Edith comes down with an illness and learns the other name of this place, Crimson Peak.
That is where I’m going to leave my recap of this movie. Where I want to start is that I was late to this movie. I had unfortunately missed this film when it was in theaters when it first came out. I had lucked out that the Gateway Film Center did a tribute to co-writer/director Guillermo del Toro in 35mm. That was quite an experience. Being able to see it that way just shows how visually stunning this movie is. The ghosts look great and the red soil at Crimson Peak is so vivid against how dreary the house is. It makes them pop and visually it is amazing. There is CGI with the ghosts that I didn’t have issues with. The practical effects were also good. They also bring such character to the house, but I’ll come back to that.
Where I’ll go next is the story as it has some interesting aspects to it. I love that Edith wants to be a writer and that this whole film is an allegory to the story that she is writing. The ghosts aren’t the focal point of this movie, much like she says about her own story. This is a gothic romance where the ghosts are helping Edith put together the truth of what she is involved in. I did like that aspect and how this plays out with the overall story. It is also interesting that Edith is told to incorporate a love story. Thomas when he is trying to honor her father’s wishes asks her what she knows of love. She is blinded by him and it leads to things later.
I’ll now circle back to the house having character. As the synopsis states, the house is almost alive. Edith saw ghosts before ever meeting Thomas, but upon arriving at the mansion, she is seeing more. They are trying to tell her what happened to them and to prevent it from happening to her. Lucille and Thomas are harboring quite a few secrets. The house makes odd noises due to being in disrepair. When the wind blows it’s almost as if it is breathing. The red clay that is around the area bleeds in as there is a mine of it below the house. This has a feel of ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ from Edgar Allan Poe as the house is falling apart, much like the Sharpe family. It feels almost as if it is alive.
That should be enough for the story so I’ll go to the acting of the film is good across the board. Wasikowska is an actress I don’t see in a lot, but I think she is underrated. The nativity she brings to the role is played on, but they don’t know about her being able to see ghosts. She is strong in her ability and I thought it was believable in her seeking the truth. Chastain is another solid actress, but I think her role in this film is really subdued. We get to see more of it as the tensions rise and it makes sense why. It worked well for me. Hiddleston was fine as the baronet. The only thing I noticed is there is a bit of awkwardness between Edith and Thomas. It doesn’t bother me and makes sense in the end. Hunnam didn’t impress me a lot, but I think that is lack of screen time. I like him as an actor; it is just missing something here. Jones I have to commend, because he is one of the best physical actors out there. As I said, the acting is great across the board.
Then the last things to go into would be the cinematography and soundtrack. I’ve already said how stunning this movie is. Something else that helps is the editing of the film. There are some great transitions that worked for me. I did have a bit of an issue with the pacing. It feels like it meanders a bit, but I can’t blame this too much as that is how most of the gothic novels also feel. It is also a slow-burn. I have to give del Toro credit there as he does capture this aspect. The score of the film works well in building the atmosphere the movie needs. They go with piano as the basis of a lot and helps with the gothic feel.
Now with that said, this is a movie that I liked the first time and it has gone up with this second viewing. Visually this film is stunning, I just need to reiterate that one more time. The story itself I liked, it is interesting that the story that Edith is writing is an allegory to what is happening in her life. I enjoy how the film plays out in the end. The acting is good across the board. Wasikowska is the star though. The CGI that was used looked great as did the practical effects that are used. The score was also something that was a positive. I still have a bit of a pacing issue, but it is hard to fault for this type of movie. Overall, I have come up on this one. I now find this to be a good movie and one that I’d recommend seeing if what I’ve said works for you. Also if you’re a fan of del Toro.
My Rating: 8 out of 10