Crimson Peak Drama

'Crimson Peak' Film Review: A gothic masterpiece that lives up to its title

October 16, 2015Ben MK

In Crimson Peak, the walls literally run red. Of course, what else would you expect from director Guillermo del Toro, the creative mind behind such haunting films as Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone, who follows up his 2013 love letter to Kaiju films, Pacific Rim, with this, an equally passionate homage to classic, old-fashioned gothic horror.

Both a love story and a turn-of-the-century fright fest, Crimson Peak follows Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, playing a character whose surname immediately evokes that of one of Hammer horror's greatest icons), an aspiring writer from Buffalo, New York, whose own belief in ghosts stems from an eerie encounter she had with her recently-deceased mother some 14 years earlier. It was then that Edith first heard the name "Crimson Peak," uttered to her as part of an ominous warning from that skeletal apparition. However, it wouldn't be until after she meets a man named Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) that she's able to glean its ghastly meaning.

A handsome and charming English baronet who's come to the States in search of funds to save his floundering family legacy — a business mining the blood red clay deposits buried deep in the ground beneath his baroque residence, Allerdale Hall — Thomas strikes up an intense romance with Edith. Yet Thomas' sister, Lucille (an icy Jessica Chastain), and Edith's father, Carter (Jim Beaver), seem to frown upon their relationship. Nonetheless, Edith and Thomas are soon married, and it isn't long before she finds herself leaving behind her old life for Cumberland, England, where she quickly discovers that not everything in Allerdale Hall is as it appears.

Despite her desire to bring nothing but "love and warmth" to her new home (which happens to be in a dire state of disrepair), Edith is plagued by nightmarish visions of the tormented souls that wander its decrepit halls, leading her to suspect that something sinister is afoot. Needless to say, her suspicions are confirmed when she learns that Allerdale Hall is also known by another name — Crimson Peak — and the memories of her late mother's prophetic words come flooding back to her. From there, the movie becomes a spectral murder mystery; and even though del Toro and co-writer Matthew Robbins don't make it too hard for audiences to fathom how the story will end up, it's still very much a scream to watch it all unfold.

Gorgeously macabre with bursts of shocking gore, Crimson Peak is worth the price of admission for its moody visuals and the fantastic sense of atmosphere alone. But there's also a heartbreaking story of love, greed and betrayal that anchors the entire film, one that's vividly brought to life through Wasikowska, Hiddleston and Chastain's excellent performances. Together, the trio form the movie's grotesque love triangle; and it's almost impossible to imagine any other actors in their roles (Emma Stone and Benedict Cumberbatch were, at one point, set to star). The net effect is not only unforgettable, but unmistakably potent — truly deserving of being called a pinnacle of gothic movie-making.

Crimson Peak releases October 16th, 2015 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for bloody violence, some sexual content and brief strong language. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 59 Mins.

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