In 19th century England, aesthetically pleasing and the innocent young author, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) finds herself besotted with the tall, dark and handsome yet mysterious Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). A whirlwind romance ensues, which leads to her marriage to him thus speedily escorting her to live at his scary-looking, dark, bleak, cold isolated mansion… Allerdale Hall. Whilst trying to adapt to her new environment, Edith begins to suspect that her new husband is hiding something. Her suspicions are aroused by the presence of his also mysterious sister, Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Not long into her stay at , she discovers that the house is also home to many paranormal entities. All of whom are figures of Thomas’ past. The question that begs to speak is what is the real secret of Crimson Peak?
Crimson Peak isn’t a horror. It’s a ghost story. It’s a psychodrama. Yes, there is a difference. There are a few scares here and there but it’s mainly the brutality of the kills that gets you but also the anticipation of being scared that plays with your mind. If you go into a screening of the Crimson Peak expecting to be scared shitless, then your hope will be short-lived. It’s a high quality psychodrama with great cinematography and great camera work. This is a product from the master of horror, Guillermo Del Toro (The Strain, Pan’s Labyrinth). It’s ghost story with amazing visual effects to depict the ghosts.
The scary thing in this film isn’t the ghost. It’s the facade that our characters play. Well, the Sharpes to be precise. To begin with they seem so innocent and we could never think they could be guilty of matricide. Everyone has secrets and the Sharpes are overflowing with them. The thing about the good old British period ghost stories, is that the ghosts are irrelevant in comparison to the psychological subtext and serious undertone. History is never truly history in the Crimson Peak. It happened in the past but it still haunts the characters in the here and now. Buried secrets can just as easily become unburied don’t you think?
In traditional form, ghosts can only scare us to the point of sleepless nights…in some cases but they can’t cause physical harm to a person. We’re in reality and they’re in another dimension. They’re in another paradigm so to speak. Ghosts have a flair for the dramatic and can deliver quite an Oscar-winning performance. They’re all style and no substance, much alike Michael Bay. These entities touch Edith every so often but never really do her harm and then they try to help her. I mentioned before that this movie is a ghost story. Even that in itself is subject to perception. It’s a story with a ghost in it as Edith says about her own novel.
Jessica Chastain is a grand piece of acting talent. She does the English accent so well in this movie and I couldn’t fault it one iota. She has an elegance about her yet she gives off the vibe of an evil witch from one of the traditional fantasy fairy tales, maybe something like Hans Christian Anderson’s Hansel & Gretel. She reminds me of Vanessa Ives from Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. In many films and shows I have watched, American actors and actresses have not been able to pull off a good English accent. She is the first actress that I have seen in a long time that can do it well without faltering and letting her Americanism hinder her performance. The Australians and the Canadians have been more successful at imitating our accent than the Americans have.
Chastain uttered every word with pure class and it was almost seductive that you wanted to like her. Despite what she did, I love to hate Lucilla Sharpe. She deserves an Oscar nomination for this performance, though I don’t believe she will get one. The horror genre generally doesn’t get accolades from the Academy. The last horror movie to win in the acting category was Silence Of The Lambs (1991) with Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins picking up awards for the leading acting categories. The movie also picked up Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director (Jonathan Demme).
To me, Tom Hiddleston (Avengers Assemble) is and will always be known as Loki because of his roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I haven’t seen much with him in where he isn’t attached to the Asgardian scepter. I saw him as Henry V in Hollow Crown and his performance was solid but Crimson Peak is the only the other part I have seen him play. He’s a big name but he hasn’t done much. It’s good to see him come into his own and his performance in Crimson Peak is on par. Benedict Cumberbatch (Black Mass) was originally cast as Sir Thomas, as if Cumberbatch isn’t in everything that seems to be out at the moment but he dropped out and Hiddleston stepped in. Hiddleston’s performance was good but he hasn’t got anything on Chastain. I also loved the fact that he managed to cockblocked Charlie Hunnam’s (Sons Of Anarchy) Dr Alan McMichael. Sorry Charlie, you had no chance with Edith while Loki was in the room. All kneel before him. Hunnam’s performance was also good and I can’t wait to see him as Arthur in Guy Ritchie’s ‘Knights Of The Roundtable: King Arthur’.
The house is haunted and has a life of its own and the production design from Del Toro, as in all in his movies is on point. Del Toro has always been about the visuals. The house is visually stunning, inside and out. The house is huge, mounted on a clay hill surrounded by snow, at times, which makes the house look even more spooky giving it a haunted Christmas feel to it. It looks like something straight out of Doctor Who, in the most positive way possible of course. It’s a period drama and the house is very bleak.There are holes in the roof allowing the leaves to fall through. The taps don’t run properly. It’s structurally incompetent. It’s just a bit worse for wear. It’s a mansion with life and character. It has a personality and so do the people who live there, whether they are of this world…or another.
Sir Thomas and Lucille remind me a lot of Cersei and Jaime Lannister from HBO’s Game Of Thrones. Let’s just say they are overly familiar with one another for two individuals who are only supposed to be siblings…an incestous subtext. Plus the Sharpe dynasty is falling much alike the Lannisters. With the death of Tywin, they lost everything. I suppose you could compare Tywin to the house. It stands as a constant reminder of how far they have fallen. The harder you come, the harder you fall.
In conclusion, I believe this movie was great and worthy of a trip to the local cinema. You need to see this on the big screen purely for the artistic brilliance in production design and cinematography of Del Toro. The film wasn’t all grim even with the brutal murder at the very start. It has light amidst darkness in witty comedic one liners from Edith in aristocratic society but also the political moves among the pompous aristocrats. The movie is Downton Abbey meets Penny Dreadful. I really liked it and I urge anyone who loves the period genre or has a fascination with ‘the other side’ to go to see this.