For all the hubbub about this film being a horror movie by Guillermo del Toro this movie was a disappointment; not awful just disappointing. If you, as I did, go into this movie expecting a horror film then you will be sorely mistaken. The movie is a mystery romance thriller, with light horror elements interspersed. That in itself is fine, except that the trailer (below) is misleading. For instance, the trailer for The Grey turned out to be terribly misleading, but the film itself was fantastic. Sadly that is not the case here. Crimson Peak happens to be a gorgeous film with attractive, impeccably dressed actors, brilliant settings but unfortunately its undermined by its predictable plot and plodding pacing.
The plot is fairly standard and rather boring. Our protagonist, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), is a beautiful young lady, and the daughter of a rich businessman. Edith’s mother dies when she is young and returns as an apparition to warn her of the mysterious Crimson Peak. The story jumps forward and Edith is now an intelligent and independent young woman who dreams of being a writer like Mary Shelley (Frankenstein). Her father, Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), is a successful businessman and has a meeting with one Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, aka Loki), a charming yet mysterious Englishman seeking funds to invest in his new invention. Quickly smitten by Thomas Sharpe, Edith wants to elope with him, but her father is extremely suspicious and has him investigated. Carter unfortunately suffers a terrible “accident” leaving Edith alone. Despite the obvious ominous signs Edith marries Thomas, and is whisked away to England. The Sharpe Manor, Allerdale Hall, it turns out, is a dilapidated mess, and here is where the ghosts return to Edith. She slowly finds out about the violent past as it becomes the deadly present: with her as the next victim. Saying anymore would spoil the plot but needless to say Mr. Sharpe and his creepy sister Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain) are not what they seem.
The principal actors are all gorgeous or handsome and the scenes are shot with what seems like painstaking detail to Victorian settings. Mia Wasikowska as Edith is serviceable, she’s not fantastic but she’s not awful either. She is portrayed as an intelligent and independent young woman yet at times is extremely naïve in regards to The Sharpes and their suspicious machinations. She is also out performed by the other principals. Tom Hiddleston plays Sir Thomas Sharpe effortlessly as a handsome charming Englishman with a dark past. While Jessica Chastain, seems to relish playing the creepy and menacingly evil sister, Lucille Sharpe. She definitely comes off as slightly unhinged despite her cold almost emotionless public appearance. The costume and set design deserve particular mention for being a highlight of this film. Each dress that Edith or Lucille wears, seems to have been a painstaking project. They are layered, colorful, vibrant, and serve as metaphors much like the ghosts do. In addition, the Sharpe Manor, (aka Crimson Peak) is a beautiful rotting Victorian mansion. Despite its utter decay and literal holes, the house holds onto its former beauty and it is showcased in many scenes in the film.
“Ghosts are real. This much I know,” Edith tells us, and this is true, but this movie is not a ghost story, and actually the ghosts and scares are few and far between. It seems like this movie was once a twisted romance thriller set in the Victorian Era, and then it had horror stapled onto it. The movie rarely forays into outright horror, and when it does it’s for very brief periods and jump scares. The film isn’t horrible, nor is it horror filled. If you like Victorian era set and costume design then this is the film for you. Otherwise it’s a serviceable, beautiful, yet mishandled Gothic romance with occasional horror.
TLDR: Crimson Peak is a boring and predictable Gothic romance mystery that is buoyed by Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, gorgeous set design, and beautiful costume design. (2.5/5 Stars)