This review contains mild spoilers
It’s repeatedly told as a gothic romance film, ok we got it. But unfortunately it’s our lovely heroine assigned to find the path to horror by wandering every night with portable chandelier in her new home later she knows as Crimson Peak. A horror which is not only literally ghostly but also hiding a dark revelation of who the man she’s recently married and his sister which she finds out so painful later.
Not designed as a horror movie, Guillermo del Toro‘s new dark piece must have a set new level in its genre. However, del Toro doesn’t complicate us in seeing the essence of this all horrifying bloody scheme which are love and sacrifice, making Edith give up her all, Thomas realize his mishap, and Lucille let her insanity off wild.
Mia Wasikowska (Stoker, Alice in the Wonderland) plays the heroine, Edith Cushing, an aspiring yet haunted young writer who has been warned about Crimson Peak since childhood during some occasional supernatural events. Little does she know when meeting Tom Hiddleston’s (Thor, Only Lovers Left Alive) Thomas Sharpe, her path to the mansion with red clay deposit (here’s why it’s called Crimson) is getting closer.
Edith’s father, a hardworking industrialist, somehow has a keen eye for Thomas’s motive, thus urges him to leave the town and breaks Edith’s heart. It actually works but only to give more room for Thomas and Lucille to break in and dominate the scheme. And as you predict now, everyone interferes villains doing their mission must be banished, so does Edith’s father. And his death leads us learning about what actually Thomas and Lucille chase after, something making Thomas choose Edith as bait and Lucille reluctant about his brother’s choice.
Edith who is considered too young for undefined reasons is actually what both need to fund their machine and rejuvenate their rotting mansion. Blooming, alone, and naive, Edith is drawn into fantasy writing career and desperately looking for support, something which in the movie only Thomas shows such quality. Edith falls for him and Thomas seemingly to fall for her too. Only by the end of the movie we know if their love is mutual or one-sided.
Manage Any Expectation of a Happy Ending
Let’s get few things clear first. Although it’s called more into a romance that horror, please manage any expectation of a happy ending. As Edith steps into Crimson Peak, such expectation is all gone and nothing left but alarming screeches and groans all over the places.
And although it’s not as nightmarish as Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) or as pumping as Pacific Rim (2013), del Toro is quite successful in building up a sort of suspense love story on a haunted house theme, a combination of two elements which is tough for any filmmakers to produce. del Toro also puts the main plot and sub plots into a coherent line, romanticizing both towards a clear line climax. In short, no dark materials are forced and unnecessary here.
What we find more interesting is that such suspense comes from the human characters, rather than the bloody ghostly creatures. And the truly femme fatale here goes to Lucille’s Jessica Chastain (Lawless, Interstellar, The Martian). So lonely and seemingly bearing so much pain, Lucille is so desperate that Thomas will look away from her. In depth, Lucille is a representation of how evil love can be, regardless the year and era you live in.
A Perfect Blend of Evil and Beauty
Never doubt del Toro when he deals with details. He’s among the most keen eyes in movie industry. He deliberately built the obsolote giant robot (even only a torso) so that we can experience the real scale and sensation of Jaeger VS Kaiju in Pacific Rim, and with similar reason he built a real Crimson Peak.
The mansion is real, artistically design and built in order to bring in the gothic vibe into the movie. The interior is made by piece of piece of dark elements supporting the story, makes every place memorable; the tub Edith bathes in, the elevator, the kitchen, especially the living room where Lucille shows her most skill, playing the piano.
Adding credit to the beauty, we can’t resist the enchanting fashion and volume of Victorian gowns; party gowns to sleeping gowns, worn by Edith and Lucille. Regardless the dark tone, misty plot, and surprisingly twisted characters, Crimson Peak delivers stunning visuals which we can still very much enjoy within the horror.
But still Crimson Peak isn’t merely about the mansion and the ghosts living it. Should Edith write a ghost story after leaving it (if she can), she will likely start it with a romantic introduction between her and Thomas, her later wounded heart, and her revelation on supernatural stuffs due to this love. And should the time come, Edith needs no one to support but her own confidence. If this message what del Toro wants to sell, he’s sold it in a way any filmmaker might not think of.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Jim Beaver
Duration: 119 mins