Release Date: 16 October 2015
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Studio: Legendary Pictures
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Genre(s): Drama, Fantasy, Horror
Review Spoilers: Low
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For those of you who want to see Crimson Peak because the trailer or IMDB’s genres made it feel like a horror movie, let me just say up front, Crimson Peak isn’t that movie. While there were some very creepy moments, Guillermo del Toro definitively said: Crimson Peak is a gothic romance. If you go into the movie expecting a more horror leaning film, you definitely will be disappointed. Fortunately, having the knowledge that Crimson Peak was going to be a gothic romance I left the movie feeling that del Toro had achieved what he wanted.
Although del Toro cast Charlie Hunnam again, it is interesting to see how far del Toro has progressed in Hollywood. From Pan’s Labyrinth to Pacific Rim, del Toro seems to be making a larger splash. Crimson Peak boasts a star studded cast of Mia Wasikowska, known for her like roles as unassuming timid women in dark themed films (Stoker, Jane Eyre), Tom Hiddleston (Thor), Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty), Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), and Jim Beaver (Supernatural). Each cast member plays their role in echoing gothic elements. Mia Wasikowska is Edith Cushing – the virginal maiden, Charlie Hunnam as Alan McMichael – the hero, and Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain play Thomas and Lucille Sharpe – the villains.
In addition to the human character roles, the home of the Sharpes, Allerdale Hall, is a character unto itself, fitting with the gothic theme. The home groans and creaks as if it were alive. The ghosts, as a supernatural element, also add to the “life” of the architecture. Utilizing environment and setting also helped the creepy factor. Allerdale Hall sits atop land made of clay. The Sharpes try and mine the land to keep their home afloat. Since the clay is very red (del Toro made it more red than normal clay) when it mixes with water and seeps places, it appears like blood – thus Crimson Peak.
Crimson Peak’s strongest areas are the characters and gothic themes. Unfortunately the plot can be rather predictable and focuses a bit more on the romance than the gothic. Crimson Peak has an entanglement of affections. Not surprisingly as a non-canon gothic element – an eerie relationship between Thomas and his sister Lucille. The love triangle, square, spaghetti mess can feel a bit weightless between certain characters. Jessica Chastain, for me, really stole the show as her character begins to unravel. Never had she been scarier and more different than previous characters she has played.
On the upside, if you like romance, you won’t be disappointed. Sure, the ghosts are freaky looking but the “horror” moments that are eerie and creepy probably make up about 15% of the screen time. There is a lot of tension and suspense created with the ghosts, but not enough for me to really warrant it as a horror movie. Surprisingly however, it is a bit gorier than I had expected. Particularly two scenes, one showing the aftermath of a bashed in face and one a stabbing. Really, if those two scenes had not been included Crimson Peak’s MPAA rating most likely would have been PG-13 as opposed to the R it carries. Or it could also have been that they showed Hiddleston’s butt.
Having gone through the ordeal in high school and college that was reading gothic romance, I can say that del Toro does well to incorporate the elements in the movie while putting his own del Toro spin on them. Oddly, as someone who is such a scaredy cat and cannot watch horror movies, , I would have liked it better if del Toro played up more of the supernatural element instead of having scale tip more to the romance side.
Final Thoughts: While Crimson Peak is not Guillermo del Toro’s strongest piece of work, if you see it with the knowledge that it is a gothic romance and not a horror movie, you will not be as disappointed. Unless Hiddleston’s butt outweighs all of that.