By: Muneeb Arshid
Crimson Peak is the much anticipated, brand new film by acclaimed visual director Guillermo del Toro. This is del Toro’s English- language ode to his previous Spanish films: The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth. The movie stars Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing, an aspiring writer in late 19th century Buffalo. She becomes enamored by Tom Hiddleston’s Sir Thomas Sharpe, who is accompanied by his sister Lucille Sharpe brilliantly played by Jessica Chastain.
Now the first to thing to realize is that Crimson Peak is not your typical horror film. It’s exactly what del Toro had said during promotions that this movie was a Gothic romance and not necessarily a horror movie. But, that’s not to say that there aren’t a few scares here and there. They are mostly prevalent with the ghosts in the middle of the film, but even then, the scares are quite predictable and for hardcore horror fans, they will be nothing. However, the sequence at the end of the movie (for about 20 minutes) is fantastically gory and has been described by many as a tribute to hammer horror. If Crimson Peak would’ve actually explored more with that side of its film personality, this movie could’ve qualified more as a horror than anything else frankly.
But that’s not to say that the Gothic romance of the movie is bad or underwhelms. There is a certain sense, especially when you meet Lucille, but even with Thomas Sharpe that he may be an odd character even though he is this charming Brit seemingly just in America for a business opportunity. And when Thomas first meets Edith, there does seem to be a legitimate connection between the two characters.
The movie is at its peak in terms of its characters especially with the portrayal of the Sharpe siblings. Jessica Chastain channels her inner demonic being in portraying Lucille while Thomas is the smooth and suave Brit who is the charmer but you can tell that there is some sort of cynicism behind his character. The character of Edith on the other hand, is just used as a plot device, where her character is what is allowing the progression of the story and no further. She does make significant contribution once the action begins towards the end, but until then it’s a lot of interactions with ghosts who tell her to take heed of Crimson Peak (but of course, she doesn’t).
However, if there is one thing that Crimson Peak cannot be faulted on, is its style and surroundings. It will be the movie that gives The Man from U.N.C.L.E. a run for its money in terms of costume design at the Oscars. The costumes are absolutely brilliant and really do show off the period nature of the movie. The movie is also brilliantly shot with a very late 19th-century color pallet to start the movie and once the film moves to Allerdale Hall, the construct of the house itself really makes it apparent of the creepiness of Crimson Peak.
All in all, Crimson Peak is a great attempt for del Toro in his first English language film that is similar to his previous work in Spanish. But it’s not his best; that title would still belong to Pan’s Labyrinth with The Devil’s Backbone closely behind. There is definitely more style over substance but it shouldn’t detract from the fact that del Toro has made a movie that wants me yearning for more of his work.
Crimson Peak gets a grade of B-.