Director Guillermo del Toro released his first horror film in five years on Oct. 15, which was widely anticipated by fans longing for atonement from the disappointing “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” (2010).
While “Crimson Peak” wasn’t as disastrous as his 2010 horror, it still wasn’t on the “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) level, which is what most everyone hoped for. Still, “Crimson Peak” maintains an aesthetic excellence that del Toro is known for, and the acting is almost unilaterally perfect.
The only faults were the lack of attention to the supernatural element and a rushed, underdone ending. Before becoming disheartened, rest assured that it is not without an uncomfortably focused, close-up-face-smashing scene reminiscent of the brutally famous bottle smashing in “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
Gore fans rejoice; del Toro’s still got the guts to make you grimace.
“Crimson Peak,” set in what appears to be early 20th century America, focuses on a young woman striving to establish herself as a horror author, drawing from vivid memories of encountering her mother’s ghost as a child.
Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) carries a disdain for conventional romance, despite a childhood friend’s persistent interest and her father’s desire to see her married. However, when two siblings come to town in a desperate attempt to save their family’s failing crimson clay distribution business, Edith finds herself enthralled with Baron Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston).
After a family tragedy strikes, Edith’s life changes and haunting memories from her past begin to coincide with the strange and ominous behavior of the baron and his sister Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain).
Anything that could have been visually stunning in the film was executed to the fullest extent. The ghosts were terrifying to behold and not faded mirages still reminiscent of the living humans they had once been. They embodied what is horrifying about ghosts: rotting, lurking and dead. However, the ghosts’ appearances could have been more frequent and embedded into the plotline.
The attention to costume detail and set design was award-worthy, and it carried a feeling of romanticized gothic horror throughout the film.
Everything was old, creaky and shrouded in layers of mystery—except toward the end, when the storyline starts to wrap up so quickly that it is impossible not to predict. Yet the striking architecture, costumes, cinematography and acting gloss over a weak ending.
Perhaps the best part of “Crimson Peak,” beside its visual excellence, is Chastain’s performance. Once again, the Oscar-decorated actress brings a depth and dedication to a character that could easily have been overdone or conventional.
She plays a truly remarkable psychopath, maintaining a frigidity in her personality that alludes to a mysterious oddness, which she downplays in public. She creates the perfect villain; she is love-torn, bitter and mangled by a deep sadness turned malicious. As with any good psychopath, there’s something alluring and simultaneously magnetic about her. So, in the world of classic, gothic horror at its aesthetic finest, “Crimson Peak” is spot on.
The storyline gets weak toward the end, and the ghosts—while visually amazing—aren’t as involved as they should be. It isn’t the horror masterpiece many were hoping for from del Toro. However, it is still worth a watch for many reasons.
“Crimson Peak” is rated R for bloody violence, some sexual content and brief strong language and is playing at Cinemark Theater in Conway.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 28, 2015 print edition of The Echo.
image via ew.com