By Ross Joswick
This article can also be viewed in Issue 5, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (November 5, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Writers: Guillermo Del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain
Runtime: 119 Minutes
Rating: R for for bloody violence, some sexual content and brief strong language.
In the early days of the 20th century, a young American writer named Edith Cushing is desperately trying to publish her latest manuscript. As her ghost story gets turned down once again, she meets Thomas Sharpe and his sister Lucille. Soon after, a romance begins to bloom between Thomas and Edith. They marry and head back to England. Thomas and Lucille return home with Edith to a place called Crimson Peak, a place that Edith was warned about so long ago.
Guillermo Del Toro makes beautiful films, doesn’t he? His latest film, Crimson Peak, is a film exuding with color, particularly red. The entire film is a wonderfully elaborate dreamscape. In addition to the beauty, there are some methodically crafted scares as well.
Crimson Peak incorporates a well-rounded cast headlined by the fine English actor Tom Hiddleston who is enigmatic in his portrayal of aristocrat Thomas Sharpe. His performance is a nuanced one and his talents seem to flow easily with the period in which the film is set. Jessica Chastain plays Lucille Sharpe with aggressive vigor and diabolical subtlety. She effectively steals the thunder from Hiddleston and continues her impressive stretch of acting in recent years. She has truly established herself as a top-tier talent in the last few years. Chastain excels in incorporating a nice blend of substance and mystery into her performance. This fine performance gets filed into an impressive resume that includes Zero Dark Thirty (2012), A Most Violent Year (2014) and Interstellar (2014). Chastain serves as a gruesome alternative to the chilling atmospherics in Crimson Peak.
Finally, Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) steps into the shoes of Edith Cushing. With any young actor or actress comes the threat of growing pains and at times Wasikowska can be a little wooden onscreen. However, most of the film she is able to hold her own with Hiddleston and Chastain.
Crimson Peak is a story of love, horror and jealousy and a most successful one at that. The main reason this film works is the true mastery of the canvas in which the story is played out. It really is a sight to behold and it all came from the mind of its remarkable artist.
Someone who has seen Del Toro’s earlier work could have anticipated this kind of imagination that is found in this film. The real treat is for those who are being introduced to Del Toro’s work for the first time.
The use of color is a strong point for Crimson Peak. In addition to red, we see a large number of vivid greens to symbolize the envy that runs through the veins of the film. There are also deep blues and purples intended to indicate sorrow and loss. The use of colors such as these aren’t uncommon in specific areas of films but Del Toro manages to use multiple colors at a time and it is never once jarring to the viewer. This is all part of the unique trademark Del Toro has established and Crimson Peak is a fine place to view it.
Many of these colors are often set upon the background and particular objects such as clothing or furniture. What elevates the use of color to a higher level is using them in particularly beautiful and often tragic sequences. It’s hard not to marvel at these murders, which are horrifically brutal but never falter in firmly capturing the viewer’s eye and attention. This is when a director is at his best and has the audience in his outstretched palm. Based only on visual craft and detail, Crimson Peak is a masterpiece.
Film, for the most part, is a visual medium and because of this Crimson Peak is a resounding success. However, the storyline for this picture is stretched a bit thin. The story doesn’t have a great deal of moving parts. That is not to say the story wasn’t intelligent, but it really wasn’t fleshed out as much as it could’ve been. Nonetheless, this approach is not a negative one, it just says that Del Toro favored visual storytelling over a rich, delicately paced story. Crimson Peak is a ghost story, a beautiful one; but your prototypical ghost story with some gore for good measure.
Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak is a supernatural light show with very capable acting, topped off with wonderful visual delights. It’s not your everyday chiller because it incorporates romance at its center, but it is able satisfy the terror aficionados. Crimson Peak loses steam when put under a logician’s microscope, but still holds it together well enough to earn a place among Del Toro’s finest productions.
Three Stars of the Film
1st Star – Guillermo Del Toro, Director
2nd Star – Jessica Chastain as Lucille Sharpe
3rd Star – Tom Hiddleston as Thomas Sharpe
Score: 79 out of 100