Born from the inventive and fascinating imagination of Guillermo Del Toro, Crimson Peak is an uber stylish Gothic fantasy centered on Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), a young American heiress and Mary Shelley-wannabe who falls in love with a handsome and penniless English baronet named Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). After her father mysteriously dies, Edith marries Thomas and moves to his run-down manor, Allerdale Hall, which is run by his beautiful and manipulative sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). The house sits above a mine of red clay that seeps into the pipes and foundations, turning an already terrifying derelict into a truly haunting setting that breathes icy winds and stains the surrounding land blood-red; thus, the place is nicknamed “Crimson Peak”. The property is kept from the brink of ruin by the machinations of the two Sharpes whom Edith soon comes to realize, with some communications from beyond, are more dangerous than their initial dark glamour.
Less a ghost story but “a story with a ghost in it” (as stated by Edith early on in the film), the real focus of Crimson Peak seems to be less on supernatural horror and more on presenting the epitome of Gothic style. Gorgeous sets and lush costuming of the appropriate era, a truly impressive and sinister mansion, a virginal heroine, motifs of dripping candles and blood-stained snow, violent and mysterious deaths to solve, and, of course, plenty of sinister ghosts are some of the many hallmarks of the genre crammed into this two-hour film. All of Crimson Peak’s diverting art direction and stunning cinematography, however, does not quite distract from the very trite and sometimes laughable plot and dialogue. The three leads do their best with the airless script— Wasikowska is excellent in her role as Gothic heroine as she has proven time and time again—but the corny romance is strangely disjunctive when paired with the more ominous thriller bits. Also, a revealing back story for Thomas threw into confusion how many elements of the supernatural were included in the film (turns out Hiddleston’s role in Only Lovers Left Alive is still the only one where he plays a vampire). Still, Crimson Peak is a very beautiful-looking movie that should probably be marketed more for its Gothic splendour rather than its screams.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 waltzes with non-extinguishable candles