Crimson Peak Review

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By Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)

Stories begin as words on pages. It takes the vision and creative mind of a director to bring those words to life on a screen. When it comes to Guillermo del Toro, you have an idea of what you’re going to get: a fantasy-related film with deep tone and ambiance. Del Toro’s films vary from the action and adventure of Pacific Rim and Hellboy to the depth of humanity and what is reality as found in Pan’s Labyrinth. His latest film has more in common with the latter as he tackles a gothic love story in Crimson Peak.

Tragedy has followed Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) from a young age. She has always found a form of comfort when around her friend, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam). But when a stranger in the form of Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) comes to town on business, she is soon swept off her feet by the charming gentleman. She soon finds herself marrying Sharpe and moving with him to his family’s home in the English hills, known as Crimson Peak, where he leaves in a huge, foreboding mansion with his sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain). While things may appear innocent on the surface, the house tends to come alive at night with Edith meeting apparitions, among other paranormal activity. But what are it the apparitions and the house are trying to tell her, and will she survive the dangers that surround her to find out the secrets at Crimson Peak?

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Guillermo is a master of developing atmosphere with his films, and that artistry is on full display in Crimson Peak. The home is easily what we would imagine a haunted house to be. From the moment Edith walks into Crimson Peak, we know this home is ancient, with the roof falling apart and lights that illuminate only certain areas, leaving others in total darkness. The use of lighting really sets the stage to enhance the ambiance of the film and adds to the suspense found in scenes where Edith is all alone. Of course, some use of CGI is needed in a film such as Crimson Peak, and del Toro is a master at choosing the right form for the film he’s developing. The apparitions that appear fit perfectly with the setting in which they reside and bring a sense of terror and wonder. You initially question the horror of witnessing such spirits, but then question what it is they are trying to relay, what are the messages they need to tell. Del Toro adeptly uses lighting, color, location, and imagery to thread this gothic story together, weaving aspects of story and tying in small details and intricacies as we move along and discover what evils reside on Crimson Peak.

While the film is an ensemble film of sorts, with the story really being told by the characters of Edith, Thomas, and Lucille, much of the stories progression really relies on the talents of Wasikowska. She’s thrown into a situation as a young, naive woman, and is quickly forced to grow up and to trust herself as she unravels the secrets found in her new home. We watch this effortless transformation of the character, albeit fast, which is graceful and innocent. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Jessica Chastain who is brilliantly evil and authoritative. She absolutely steals every scene she’s in, completely owning the character and finding the strength needed to really lead the family and do what is necessary to continue the family line. Tom Hiddleston also displays a variety of levels with his character, as we see his strength and charm early on, but notice the shift in dynamics around his sister. It isn’t until later on in the film that we understand the true story of what is happening and where the powers really lie.

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Crimson Peak is another quality film delivered by del Toro. Where the story can tend to bog down at some points, or suffer with a lack of development at other times, the actors easily pick up that slack and regain our interests, particularly Chastain. While one glance at the film may have one thinking horror film or supernatural film, there aren’t many scares to make you jump, but rather an eeriness and uneasiness that will keep you slightly on edge as you travel through Crimson Peak’s dark and dreary halls. Crimson Peak is a look at what del Toro does best, focusing on story rather than pretty pictures and visuals to drive the narrative. Crimson Peak isn’t del Toro’s best film, but he gets some of the best performances here. And while it isn’t on the level of Pan’s Labyrinth, it is still a good film in its own right.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


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