Review: Crimson Peak

In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds…and remembers.

The horror film that’s not a horror film, how exactly does that work? And why was there such a strong desire not to call this what it really is?

From the opening scenes of Crimson Peak I was hugely impressed; this is a movie that really looks beautiful and grandiose. Opening with the story of Edith Cushing, a young aspiring writer who seems to be overlooked and ridiculed no matter what she seems to do, she becomes smitten with the mysterious visitor Thomas Sharpe whom she later marries and ends up moving to their crumbling family mansion in the North of England, a place she was forewarned about in her childhood by the ghost of her dead mother as she is ominously told “beware of Crimson Peak”.

However all is not as it seems as Edith discovers more about the woman who have gone before her, those whom Thomas had married just for their money and who now are concealed in the basement of the sinking old house.

There is a certain charm to Crimson Peak that I really enjoyed, the trio of Hiddlestone, Chastain as his evil sister and Wasikowska as the cute but naive Edith makes this movie what it is. There are no shortage of ghosts as the past comes alive within the decrepit walls of Crimson Peak but none appear on-screen in a way that is terrifying and bar a scene close to the start of the film there was very little that was scary yet that doesn’t stop this being a good ghost story combined with a bad vs. good as the naive discover the manipulating Sharpe family.

I really enjoyed this film more than a lot of Del Toro’s recent output and it is a huge step up over the massively disappointing MAMA. It looks superb and the house itself makes up for any scary on-screen character, there are short outbursts of gore and violence that make it more than just a dark fairy tale, albeit one for adults.

In a year where the horror output has been abysmal, this is one of the better offerings and whilst it offers little to create nightmares, it is worth a watch just to see how visually stunning it is and a great chemistry between the three leads where you never know who you can really trust.

No it isn’t perfect, at times it plods and the CGI can be a little hit and miss but don’t be put off by that. This is well worth a watch.

Crimson Peak is a wonderful and beautifully made classic gothic ‘horror’ story with ghosts. Remove the ghosts from the equation and you have a wonderful and beautifully classic gothic ‘horror’ story. At no point are any of the apparitions needed in the film or even required – but appear ‘as a metaphor’ (which is drilled into us when the theme and content of Edith Cushings novel is raised on multiple occasions).

As a few others have said – Crimson Peak may well be one of the most beautiful films to be released this year, and quite possibly it could be argued as one of the best looking films from the last number of years. It is certainly up there visually with Pans Labyrinth. The sets, especially the dilapidated Allerston Hall, which can only be described as an art direction Oscar on a plate. Each shot, costume and set within the film is just one beautifully crafted piece after another. Tom Hiddleton and Mia Wasikowska are the two leads within the film (who are both brilliant), but are overshadowed by the simply incredible performance of Jessica Chastain as Lucille that had me at points leaning forward in my seat totally engrossed in the film. It is in short almost a masterpiece. – I say almost as the film does unfortunately stumble a little in a few areas.

The ghosts themselves are one of the issues, full cgi creature. At points, when shown at a distance look incredible (the prelude). But when depicted at close range, show off the failings in exactly what they are – smooth computer generated creations that just let the scenes they appear in down (also in the prelude). The story which reads like an old gothic Victorian short, feels surprisingly quick considering the films 2 hour run time. Granted at a few points the film felt like it dragged a little, or didn’t progress as quickly as it should, but on the whole worked well. I was really disappointed by some of the events contained in the finale, but the final shot of the film is probably one of the most stunning.

To put it bluntly this is a good film, it could have been a truly epic film, another tour de force like Pans Labyrinth, but it just simply falls short in a few areas. I have no doubt that will be watching this again though – on Blu Ray, to enjoy the film, its visuals and story again.

Oh where to start, the good points, the bad points, the missed opportunities or maybe that this could have been something so special. There is some good, maybe even great things about this film, it’s not a film I truly didn’t like, it’s a film I expected much more from. I’m not a big fan of Pacific Rim, it has moments I like, but overall it’s rather dull, yet I’m a massive fan of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone (well not has much as Pan!), I liked the Hellboy films and quite liked Blade 2 as well. So I thought Crimson Peak might have been Del Toro’s big hit.

That’s start with the bad bits; the worst bit for me is the CGI ghosts, I do have a hard time with them anyway, and here they were just too much, though the ghostly form at the end of the film wasn’t too bad. Yet it’s still CGI and it just pulls me out of the film. The opening ghostly encounter should have been incredible creepy, tense and the set up for the rest of the hauntings in the film. Instead it wasn’t, it was like BAM there are ghosts and this is what they look like. Tease me, thrill me, scare me and make the hairs on my neck stand up and finally make my bones shiver. Remember the scene in the original A Tale of Two Sisters, the bedroom scene as she hides under the bed-clothes; sent chills through me that scene did. Now this is what Del Toro should have done with this scene, instead I was like it’s a ghost; a terrible CGI ghost at that. No chills for me! After this it’s a while before the ghost’s return, which is a good thing. When they do they don’t really add anything to the film for me as a visual form, they do through the story of course they do, but it could have been done so much better. Remember The Orphanage, the find the key scene is brilliant and not a ghost in sight, couldn’t the clue hunting be more like this.

My second bad point is how dull I thought it was, it’s a nice story, a good love story, but it never really got out of first gear, ok may have crept into second towards the end, but never enough to really entertain me.
My final low point is the sign posted story arcs, which I’m not going to spoil here, but talk about obvious outcomes, it did spoil it for me a little.

Yet there are some good points I must make, the acting is very good, and from a good script (yeah I thought the script wasn’t brilliant!) that does enough. Hiddleston was extremely good, he also carries the look of a turn of the 20th century gentleman with ease. Wasn’t sure on Wasikowska , but she grows into the role and is very good-by the end of the film. Chastain seemed reigned in, as though she wanted to go a little crazier with her character, or maybe I wanted her to be a little crazier. That said she’s very good. But the real star of the film, isn’t Charlie Hunnam, its Allderdale Hall. This has to be one for the best looking sets I’ve seen, the house alone had all the atmosphere of the film (it really didn’t need CGI ghosts flying around it). It’s just incredible, the shadows, the dark wood, the ornate carvings, the feeling of despair permeates through the house. It’s just stunning. Couple this with some wonderful lighting and beautifully cinematography and this is my favourite looking film this year, by a mile. Even before the house, I thought the look of the film was working for me, as long as some CGI ghost wasn’t flying around the screen!

In the end a missed opportunity, it’s closer to Pan, but not close enough for me. Will Del Toro ever match or even better Pan’s Labyrinth, one day I hope he does.


Crimson Peak is out at Cinemas from 16th October 2015




63 thoughts on “Review: Crimson Peak

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