Guillermo del Toro bounces back from the let down of Pacific Rim (a movie I like) with Crimson Peak, a “gothic romance with ghosts” that delivers exactly on that promise.
Set around the turn of the 20th century, Crimson Peak follows the journey of Edith Cushing. A young woman who can see ghosts, Edith ends up in the arms an English entrepreneur, Thomas Sharpe, who is trying to salvage his family’s name and business as circumstance sends her off to his estate. The mansion, maintained by no one except Thomas and his sister, Lucille, quickly shows itself to be a haunted place to Edith and she tries to unravel its mysteries while her new family might be unraveling around her.
Del Toro has always been known for his production designs, but Crimson Peak might be his crown jewel. His smallest film in scope in over a decade, he makes up for that with one of the most beautiful sets you’ll ever see thrown up on the screen. That set is Allerdale Hall, the Sharpe family mansion, and this giant house is beautifully created by del Toro and his team. I don’t know if a set is worth seeing a movie for, but this one has to come close.
There is more to Crimson Peak than just its pretty sets though, as Crimson Peak offers a fine story to go along with its handsome sets. The film isn’t interested in tricking you, dropping some twist, or really scaring you all that much, it just wants you to go on this journey with Edith and revel in the atmosphere del Toro creates. Characters tip you off to what kind of film you are in for, and if you go into Crimson Peak expecting a wall to wall horror film you will be disappointed. That isn’t to say the film doesn’t get tense, there are plenty of thrilling moments, but the ghosts aren’t really the driving force of those moments after a while.
Speaking of the ghosts, even though they aren’t trying to terrorize you they sure do look creepy as hell. Created practically on set with some CG augmentation. Every ghost gets its own look and creeps you out just enough to unsettle you. The ghosts also give us a glimpse into the violence acted out against them, and it is a clever back door into telling the history of the Sharpes and their history in this house.
The cast is excellent when it comes to the primary trio, with Charlie Hunnam doing a fine enough job that fits what’s being asked of him. Edith is played by the always great Mia Wasikowska, and she does a great job of being our audience surrogate into the lives of the Sharpes. Wasikowska is also terribly convincing under the stress of Allerdale, but we buy every moment she stands up for herself. Wasikowska is always great, and that’s no different here. Tom Hiddleston might be the perfect pick for the handsome gothic charmer Thomas Sharpe, and he nails the part every step of the way. I wish we got a bit more time between him and Wasikowska, per their romance, but Hiddleston sells it with ease regardless. The MVP of the film might have to go to Jessica Chastain though, who gets the juiciest part as Lucille. Chastain is the one to look to when you want to know what kind of film you are in, as she is chewing scenery and playing everything over the top just the right amount. Chastain also gets the film’s pieces of humor and sticks every beat.
Crimson Peak is one of the most beautiful films of the year and one of the better creepy movies to add to your Halloween rotation in recent memory. Del Toro has made a few movies that fit that description and Crimson Peak proudly sits up there with some of my favorite films by the director. Chastain, Wasikowska and Hiddleston all sell this gothic ghost story and you shouldn’t miss Crimson Peak if you are looking for a creepy tale this holiday season.