An expert in the grotesque inner workings of twisted fantasy, Guillermo del Toro — director of films such as Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim — has produced his most recent flick, Crimson Peak. If you are looking to be truly immersed in another world, del Toro is the director for you. Crimson Peak’s intricate set and Victorian era time period paint another world more sinister and exciting than our own.
Our heroine, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), is an American heiress. She was visited by her mother’s ghost as a young child, sparking a Mary Shelley-like interest in the supernatural. As time progresses, Edith grows up with her loving and supportive father (Jim Beaver) and becomes more enamored with writing ghost stories than with the opposite sex. However, she eventually is pursued by Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), and she deeply returns his affections.
Given del Toro’s track record, romance does not come quite so easily to him as other topics. To put the film in context, del Toro just finished a sci-fi, butt-kicking picture like Pacific Rim and leaped into making a somber Victorian love story like Crimson Peak. Since Edith is more of the Shelley kind of girl than your usual doe-eyed Cathy Earnshaw-type female lead, it makes her a difficult romantic character to digest. Del Toro does his best, but the romance can feel a little bit forced at times. Yet, she is in love, and Edith goes with Thomas and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), to their family estate in England called Allerdale Hall.
Allerdale is a charred black building that sits on a minefield of red clay, which oozes like blood into the house, creating a sense of terror that is genuine and haunting. Allerdale Hall gives as good a performance as any of the actors. Del Toro brings the monstrous mansion to life as it creaks, groans, and breathes. It juxtaposes the warm autumnal colors of America, providing a dramatic contrast and adding to the sense of distinction between fantasy and reality, enticing the audience down the paracosm into the world of del Toro. Like all great old houses, Allerdale has rooms and sections Edith is not permitted to enter, providing a driving tension in the film as Edith at first only catches glimpses of some of the house’s horrors — a classic narrative device which heightens del Toro’s allusion to older films.
Crimson Peak is a melding pot of many artistic movements and movies, which produces the beautiful monstrosity that is the film. It has a splash of German Expressionism, a dash of Hitchcock, a whisper of the Brother’s Grimm, a hint of The Shining, and a sprinkle of Jane Eyre. Del Toro, a fantastical mastermind, creates a film that is uniquely his own despite being a conglomerate of so many things.
Terrifying and unique, Crimson Peak offers itself up to be a great film to watch as you hold on to that last bit of autumnal wonder before Christmas. Grab your fall drink of choice, pumpkin spice latte or otherwise, and head to the theaters for a film that is spooky in all the right ways.