Guillermo Del Toro’s CRIMSON PEAK has been promoted as a horror film about ghosts. It certainly plays with those tropes, but one of the leads tells you right from the start what it is:
“This isn’t a ghost story. It’s a story with ghosts in it.”
And it is the best possible version of that story.
I loved CRIMSON PEAK from the first moment to the last. It is a film that is at both time a lavish painting, one you could pull any frame from and mount it on your wall, and a Gothic haunt that Del Toro is gleefully marionetting.
The basic story, without giving anything away, is about a imaginative young woman named Edith who falls in love with a Baronet and goes to live with him, and his mysterious sister, at his gorgeously dilapidated manor in Northern England after tragic events befall her. Once at the manor, the secrets of her new family begin to unravel and the haunting past of Crimson Peak, and it’s owners, is discovered.
The set design is amazing. Allerdale Hall, the proper name for Crimson Peak, is one of the most impressive sets that I’ve seen in a movie in quite a while. From it’s decomposing roof to the red clay oozing out of the walls and floorboards… It is a magnificent and eerie sight to behold. The sound design of the film also deserves a very high commendation for the sounds that the house makes due to the “east wind.” It almost sounds alive…
However, the greatest aspect of CRIMSON PEAK are the performances. The four leads are wonderful in their roles. Mia Wasikowska is incredibly appealing as the bright and independent Edith who is wrapped up in a love story is that is actually worthy of her intellect… for a time. Charlie Hunnam does some great, understated work as Edith’s former love interest, Alan McMichael, and never seems to fall into the trappings of that sort of role. Tom Hiddleston is great as the charming and wounded Thomas Sharpe, who puts the story into motion and is the recipient of the film’s best character arc. But not the best character. That honor goes to Jessica Chastain as Lady Lucille, who lords over the film with a frigid, coiled performance that threatens to lash out at any moment. She is an absolute joy to watch and honestly walks away with the whole movie when all is said and done.
Guillermo Del Toro has done a remarkable job of making one of his big-budget studio movies without sacrificing the integrity and pathos of his smaller, non-English language films. It proves to be a perfect marriage. You can also picture Del Toro standing behind the camera, giggling with delight, over all the wonderful, spooky moments he’s seasoned his film with. The picture culminates in a stupendous third act that is equal parts enthralling, frightening, entertaining, and sad. It’s a great achievement and one I honestly can’t wait to revisit. Something I very rarely say about ghost movies.
Then again… This isn’t a ghost movie.
It is a movie with ghosts in it.