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Movie Review: Crimson Peak
Adam Frazier   |  @   |  

Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak - Movie Review

Crimson Peak
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Screenwriters: Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Doug Jones, Burn Gorman
Universal Pictures
Rated R | 118 Minutes
Release Date: October 16, 2015

“Ghosts are real, that much I know. I’ve seen them all my life…”

Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), Crimson Peak is a gothic romance that hearkens back to golden age Hollywood productions like Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Dragonwyck, and Hitchcock’s Rebecca.

Set in the year 1901, Crimson Peak follows Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, Stoker), an aspiring author living with her father, Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), in Buffalo, New York. Armed with a fascination for the supernatural and a passion for literature, Edith hopes to follow in the footsteps of forward-thinking Victorian women like Mary Shelley.

Her latest work of fiction – a ghost story – is based in reality, as Edith is plagued by visions of her deceased mother. A skull-faced phantom veiled in black, Edith’s mother has appeared throughout her daughter’s life to deliver a cryptic warning, “Beware of Crimson Peak.”

Enter Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister, the mysterious Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain). Aristocrats from Cumberland, England, the Sharpes have come to New York in search of funding for a clay extractor, an invention of Thomas’ design that equals the efforts of a dozen men.

The Sharpes’ crumbling estate sits atop a profitable deposit of blood-red clay, but without the extractor to remove the clay for brick-making, the Sharpes will be unable to repair their dilapidated mansion. After failing to secure funding in London, Edinburgh, and Milan, this trip to New York is the Sharpes’ last shot at rebuilding their family’s legacy.

In the midst of his business dealings with Cushing, Thomas falls for the industrialist’s daughter and they’re soon married. Edith is whisked away to her new home: Allerdale Hall. There she discovers that she isn’t the only one haunted by the past; there are generations of secrets buried within the walls of the vast, decrepit manor.

Crimson Peak is del Toro’s love letter to iconic horror films like Robert Wise’s The Haunting, Jack Clayton’s The Innocents, and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Similar to the writer/director’s 2001 film, The Devil’s Backbone, and 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak is a spine-chilling love story dressed in the trappings of horror.

The ghosts that haunt del Toro’s grand old romance are tormented souls – emotions stripped of skin and tissue, crimson spirits who carry with them a message for Edith, who is the only person who can see them. Like Edith’s fiction, the ghosts here are metaphors for the past, and the past won’t stay buried forever.

A master of the macabre, del Toro has crafted a gothic romance that is both handsome and horrific. Perhaps his best English-language film to date, Crimson Peak is an elegant and engrossing production with sumptuous imagery and fantastic performances; Hiddleston, Chastain, and Wasikowska are fully committed to their filmmaker’s vision.

Reminiscent of Hammer horror productions – Edith’s surname is no doubt a reference to the immortal Peter Cushing – and Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe films, Crimson Peak is an old-fashioned haunt that’s less concerned with suspense and jump scares, and more focused on delivering an eerie (and emotional) experience that lingers long after the credits end. Like the souls that inhabit Allerdale Hall, del Toro’s film represents a cinematic past that will never die.


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