Review: Crimson Peak

My favourite director Guillermo Del Toro returns to give his horror stylised spin on a gothic romance.

Edith, a naïve American girl who dreams of becoming a writer, is swept away from her father’s protective surroundings when a stranger from Britain arrives with a business proposition. But Edith has been receiving warnings, warnings from her dead mother…

I can be very, very biased towards Del Toro’s work (how can you go wrong with a back catalogue including such films as Cronos, Devil’s Backbone, Blade 2, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy 1 and 2 and Pacific Rim?) and Crimson Peak certainly delivers a lot of his visual flair and style. The titular mountainside mansion is a gorgeously detailed and designed set, a treat of gothic shapes and colours, the fact that it is slowly collapsing is the least of someone’s concerns living there. Our characters’ costumes are beautiful too, making our actors Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska disappear into this period drama.
The film even has subtle themes, not dissimilar to Pan’s Labyrinth, including Wasikowska’s character of Edith being the only one who can see the ghouls and ghosts that also live in our world. This is a regular character trope of Del Toro’s work, as well as the contrast between real and fantastical worlds and which one may be more horrific. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

But, the film didn’t exactly grab me. I chalk this down to a somewhat excessively drawn out setup, exploring Edith’s safe environment within her father’s business world in America and her growing affections for Hiddleston’s Thomas. While the film opens with a peek at the horrors we will see, there is a significant drought of horrors and the mansion is a long way away from appearing. It feels like you are waiting, and I didn’t appreciate how little of the film was actually in the house.

I think I was hoping for something more like The Woman in Black; a lot of establishment of the house to give you a sense of the space and the build of tension.

Del Toro also goes for practical effects for his monsters, at least as often as he can, and while these are ghosts and therefore incorporeal, I was quite disappointed in the overuse of CGI creations. I liked their designs, but I didn’t believe they were there… I wasn’t especially scared of them, and the scares are generally quite predictable.

I really don’t like railing against a Del Toro creation, but I felt there was a lot of room for improvement with Crimson Peak, including the scare factor. Certainly there is awesome cinematography, awesome colours, set and costume design, really gory moments that shock after the long stretches of period drama.

If you enjoy gothic romances and ghost stories, you should definitely check out Crimson Peak. My review only sounds negative because I have such high hopes for Del Toro films!

Additional Marshmallows: No matter how in love you are with someone, surely when they take you to their place and the roof has caved in to snow and the walls are literally bleeding, naturally, you really should reconsider your options immediately.

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