By: Bailey Hart
The marketing for Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak has been horribly misleading- sure, it has quite a few ghosts and scares, but the main focus of the film is a melodramatic and lavish gothic romance tale. Many of the movie’s harshest critics have noted that the plot is oddly simplistic and predictable for a del Toro movie, and to be fair, they have a good point. Upon arrival of the titular location, the entire setup for the story is revealed, and the direction of the plot is quite obvious, most scenes playing out pretty much as expected. However, I’d argue that Crimson Peak is one of those rare examples of cinema where style over substance isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
In Crimson Peak, we follow the story of a young woman and writer named Edith, played by Mia Wasikowska. Without revealing too much of the plot, she ends up living at a mansion in northern England after falling in love with another young author and entrepreneur played by Tom Hiddleston. There, Edith soon discovers that not all is as it seems, as her new husband and his sister seem to be hiding something.
Crimson Peak is absolutely gorgeous to look at for its viewers. Frankly, it features some of the absolute best set design in decades. The mansion in which the majority of the film’s action takes place feels like an entirely separate character, with every location, exterior or interior, seemingly brimming with dark history and ambience. The set design is complemented with tons of clever lighting, mostly in varying shades of dark blue, and an overabundance of rich redness, as the mansion rests on a hill made of intensely crimson clay.
The entire cast is impressive, but the standout performance comes from Tom Hiddleston, who shows tremendous levels of emotional intensity and sensitivity. Jessica Chastain similarly proves to be surprisingly adept at displaying intimidation, insecurity and false confidence throughout the film. Wasikowska shows yet another impressive performance, yet her character is not given much development or depth, serving mainly as a means for the audience to be observers of tragic histories and remarkable set designs. Still, she adequately drives the plot along, and is remarkably impressive in the final 15 minutes in which we bear witness to some of the most intense and violent filmmaking of the year.
Guillermo del Toro directs his film with a combination of technical prowess and genuine inspiration, being very heavily influenced by the dramatic ghost stories of the 1950’s and ‘60s, such as The Haunting and The Innocents. Crimson Peak is certainly not as intelligent or complex as the amazing Pan’s Labyrinth, but it absolutely stands out as a triumph of modern horror, and undoubtedly one of the best films of 2015. It’s broad and lavish plot may not be for everybody, but the movie undeniably exceeds at atmosphere, intention, and general eeriness. Crimson Peak is another impressive landmark in the directorial career of Guillermo del Toro, and I can’t wait to see it again. A-