AFTER crashing to Earth with 2013’s uber-boring Pacific Rim, Guillermo del Toro resuscitates his talents and compensates with Crimson Peak, a gothic horror that though not amongst his better works plays nonetheless as an entertaining work.
With an identifiable surname given the genre, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is a wannabe novelist in early 20th century America whose attempts at cracking the literary world bring her to contact with the dashing Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston).
As a romance develops, Cushing’s father Carter (Jim Beaver) bribes him into leaving her following revelations of the background to him and his mysterious and unfriendly sister Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain).
But shortly after, Carter is brutally murdered and so Sharpe and Edith ultimately rekindle their relationship, before leaving America for England to live in a mansion called Allerdale Hall, with Lucille accompanying them.
As married life is underway, the hallucinations and nightmares involving the darkened ghost of Edith’s long-deceased mother that have plagued Edith since childhood continue, specifically mentioning the term ‘Beware of Crimson Peak’.
With the relationship between Edith and Lucille becoming more hostile and the background of Thomas being further investigated by Edith’s friend Dr McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), things become more nerving as it’s revealed that Allerdale Hall is also called…Crimson Peak.
Going into the film, one would know that del Toro is capable of crafting impressive works in the divisive horror genre and is deserving of his reputation, just from looking at Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone and of course Pan’s Labyrinth.
Pacific Rim spelled out bafflement as to how a director with such talent could end up making such a yawn-inducing bore that one would go in praying that that was a basic one-off. Thankfully, that has turned out the case with this thanks to its conviction as a horror and bringing reminiscence to some of the more memorable chillers of the 20th century.
All three leads all are interesting to view with their respective character types that display a sense of good solid casting.
Wasikowska, easily one of the strongest actresses of her generation, conveys innocence, fear and vulnerability with her performance elevating above what could have been a simple damsel in distress archetype.
Hiddleston’s Thomas makes for an interesting character of a dashing but suspicious husband with his persona and posture reminiscent of performances from actors such as Michael Redgrave in Fritz Lang’s Secret Beyond the Door.
In a juicier role than her recent turn in The Martian, Chastain is all but genuine in a role that goes against her usual good girl image as the Mrs Danvers-esque Lucille, bringing a brutal deviousness and yet more.
There is a notion that the film is entering a predictable area at times which stops it from being pushed into the realms of greatness. Motives for the characters do come across as not the most unexpected of events and a certain death scene testifies to that. Though what we are looking at makes us think we’ve seen what needs showing, later on it dawns on us what really is the case and by the time the twist is revealed, it has already been worked out.
Combining occasional scenes of brutal violence with its atmospheric feel, del Toro puts on a show that allows itself to show off as a visual treat thanks mainly to its impressive production design. One feels that inspirations such as The Haunting and The Shining not only justify their spots as amongst the horror films to be, but are welcoming in helping a film like this continue to be relevant for its respective genre today.
Though the film probably delivers the more chilling aspects earlier in the film, the climactic conclusion where death lingers is unexpected and actually allows itself to be presented in a better manner than what one felt it could have headed for.
It is not the greatest horror film ever made nor is it the scariest but for what it does, Crimson Peak cements its stance as an enjoyable work for today but crucially shows that del Toro is still reliable after all.