Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) is an aspiring writer and daughter to a wealthy businessman. She meets a mysterious British businessman Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Chastain) who are hoping to raise money from her father. Edith and Thomas fall in love and move back to his home. However, the house is haunted by ghosts and Thomas and Lucille’s home may not let Edith escape.
As you would assume from a del Toro film, the production design is wonderful with Allerdale Hall taking centre stage. A wonderfully intricate set, the house is a Gothic construction seeping red liquid through the walls and faucets. It has plenty of dark corridors and mysterious locked rooms where angry souls still linger. It’s a classic haunted house setting fitting perfectly into the Gothic tradition and calling back to the haunted house films from the early Hammer Horror eras. The ghosts in Crimson Peak are vividly red, rotting husks with wisps swirling off them. Their appearances are certainly unsettling but because they are rendered through CGI, to give them a transparent ghostlike quality, a menacing physicality is missing from them which is disappointing. But, as with many ghost stories, the true threat is not from the ghosts but from the humans that may have created them. Not the full on horror it was originally presented as, Crimson Peak instead seeks to enrapture the viewer rather than terrify, sucking them into its familiar tale.
Tom Hiddleston is a perfect fit for the refined and handsome Thomas Sharpe, a conflicted soul pulled between the good and evil aspects of his character. Jessica Chastain, with her classic Hollywood beauty, has an occasionally wobbly British accent but gives an ice cold performance filled with menace. Wasikowska slips in to the Gothic heroine role as a strong protagonist who is beset by spectres but is still brave and curious enough to investigate after them with a candelabra in her hand.
Del Toro takes his time setting up his film which ends up leaving it a little bloated with an almost two hour running time and an ending that does start to feel a little ludicrous. However, del Toro has, for the most part, managed to create an entertaining and spooky love letter to the Victorian Gothic.
Crimson Peak is an enjoyable if slightly overlong and occasionally overdone dark drama. Del Toro once again shows he is a master of imaginative creation and design with a beautiful looking film with some lovely aesthetic touches.
CRIMSON PEAK / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: GUILLERMO DEL TORO / SCREENPLAY: MATTHEW ROBBINS, GUILLERMO DEL TORO / STARRING: MIA WASIKOWSKA, JESSICA CHASTAIN, TOM HIDDLESTON, CHARLIE HUNNAM / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 15TH