Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Doug Jones, Jim Beaver
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Running time: 119 Minutes
When Guillermo del Toro makes a film, any fan of cinema should at least give it one viewing. His work alone on Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) is a pure piece of cinema. Most people will know him from his Hellboy movies, yet I have found that when del Toro tackles his own original content and not work from another creator, the film itself is always superior. So with his latest work, Crimson Peak, being written by him and Matthew Robbins, I was far more interested than, say, if “Hellboy 3” would have been his next picture.
Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) lost her mother at a very young age. However, her mother’s death was not the last time she would see her. In fact, Edith’s mother came and issued a warning to her, “beware Crimson Peak”. In seeing her mother’s ghost and hearing these words, she was set on a path of true terror.
We catch up to Edith years later, a grown woman, who cares very little for the frivolities of modern society (circa the late 1800’s). Edith is a writer, a unique profession for a woman of that time, and though finically well off, because of her father’s businesses, she cares little for love. The written word is her passion until she meets Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Sharpe is an entrepreneur who has proposed a new business venture to Edith’s father. We see both Thomas and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), in polite society, but something seems off. It is enough to have Carter (Jim Beaver), Edith’s father, investigate them. Carter is later found brutally murdered and soon after Edith and Thomas are married. A fortune is secured for the Sharpes and Edith gets the dark mysterious stranger she loves.
If you have seen one film like this, you have seen them all. There will be a big reveal of what is going on with Thomas and Lucille, Edith will be completely naive to anything happening before it is almost too late, and a spurned would-be suitor, Dr. Alan Michael (Charlie Hunnam), will ride in on his white horse and save the day. However, this is a Guillermo del Toro story, so nothing will be run-of-the-mill ordinary.
The horror genre, or to be more precise, the ghost story genre is loaded with great moments. Rarely do those great moments come with a great film. Crimson Peak is the exception. Guillermo del Toro breaks every scene, line, costume, and terror into perfect moments culminating in one grand film. Yes, those trailers are lying to you. This is not a jump-in-your-seat gore fest. In fact, Crimson Peak is a slow, methodical, and creepy haunted house tale that is just what the true cinema fan wants. We can all see that there is something wrong with not only Thomas and Lucille but their whole relationship. What that relationship is slowly revealed as Carter, Edith and Dr. Alan Michael start to put the pieces together. We aren’t given an over-indulgence of information, only clues that keep us interested in the story and Edith’s welfare.
Del Toro crafts an early red haring into the story by starting the film at a particular point when Edith is a grown woman, dressed in white, and bleeding. The film then jumps back to her as a child and unfolds. So the very first time we see Mia Wasikowska in that outfit, we are immediately reminded of that moment. It creates a form of tension that the great filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock called the “MacGuffin”. Each time she is in that white outfit, we are put on an edge. This is only one of many tricks of the trade that del Toro uses in his deliverance of Crimson Peak.
Originally, the film was to star Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of Thomas Sharpe. After seeing the film, Cumberbatch would have been completely wrong for the picture. Hiddleston, better known to the world as Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, has the unique ability to play a lovable scoundrel. He is often the villain, but one we secretly root for deep down. He is accessible through his eyes and allows us into his characters. Cumberbatch is an incredible talent, yet he hides behind his eyes and allows the audience to know only so much, no more. The role of Thomas Sharpe is not that type of part.
One last note on the casting of this film and it pertains to both Mia Wasikowska and Charlie Hunnam. They are fine in their parts, but they are both so vanilla that anyone could have been inserted into those characters. Perhaps they have both been type-cast as these roles seem very similar to others they have played in the past. Wasikowska as the naive or innocent seeker (see Alice in Wonderland and Jane Eyre), and Hunnam as the do-good hero (del Toro’s Pacific Rim). They didn’t hurt the film, it’s just that there wasn’t anything unique about their performances.
Everything is crafted in Crimson Peak, for our overall enjoyment. It is a true treat for the eyes as the costumes and sets reveal so much about the people living in them. There is so much to see and hear that those who love movies will want to see Crimson Peak again. Del Toro is truly a master at his craft and one that we can look forward to for years to come.
Action Figures Needed from Crimson Peak: Edith’s Mother and Lady Sharpe