Say what you will about Guillermo del Toro – because there’s few other filmmakers in the industry right now who care about the films they make more than he does. The amount of blood, sweat, and tears he pours into each of his projects is apparent in nearly every single frame. While 2013′s Pacific Rim seemed to disappoint more people than it excited, with a lackluster story and emotional through-line, the director has still managed to maintain his loyal fan-following, and his projects continue to feel like events whenever they come around. Now, del Toro has come blasting back into our movie theatres with his newest Gothic horror, Crimson Peak.
Set during 19th century America in the beginning, the film follows a young, aspiring novelist named Edith (Mia Wasikowska), who after receiving a strange warning from a ghost when she was a young girl, meets and falls in love with a visiting English baronet named Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Thomas and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) are visiting Edith’s father looking for funding to craft a machine that will collect and industrialize the rare, red clay that is literally bubbling underneath their childhood home of Allendale Hall.
It’s evident fairly quickly on that the Sharpes are up to a very dark kind of mischief to almost everyone except for Edith, who is charmed by Thomas’ somewhat persistent demeanor and the fact that he actually seems to take her seriously. In a role that was originally meant for Benedict Cumberbatch, Hiddleston does a suitable job as Thomas, who’s restrained and somewhat desperate attitude helps to give more dimension to some of the tragedies and darkness his character has faced in the past.
After a series of tragic events occur, Edith eventually finds herself married and moving in with Thomas to Allendale Hall, and what follows involves a whole lot of ghosts and a whole lot of blood, until Edith finally understand’s the ghost’s warning from all those years ago, but did she realize it too late? Obviously you’ll have to see the movie to find out, and I won’t go too much more into the film’s actual plot or story, and I don’t even know how much I could explain clearly anyways. The problem with Crimson Peak is that it lacks enough detail in the things that actually matter, and while the sets and production design are absolutely gorgeous, the rest of the film can sometimes feel sloppy and too convoluted for its own good.
With that being said, Jessica Chastain shines as Lucille in this film, who is easily the most interesting and intriguing character out of everyone else, as she continues to showcase her inimitable ability to turn a whole lot of nothing into a lot of something. Where most actresses could have turned Lucille into a fairly bland and one-note character, Chastain gives her enough emotion and instability, that she provides a much-needed, savagely evil energy to the entire second half of the film, when everything else begins to feel a bit too claustrophobic.
Charlie Hunnam feels out of place in his role, and his character isn’t allowed to go anywhere too interesting that by the time the film ends – you begin to wonder why exactly he was included in the first place. I should preface this next bit too by saying how incredibly talented I find Mia Wasikowska as an actress, and will gladly recommend a small indie film called Tracks, a movie in which she steadily holds up on her own shoulders. She’s one of the quieter, more subtle young actresses appearing in some of these more tentpole films, but unfortunately, she feels miscast in Peak. It takes a very specific kind of actor to be able to deliver del Toro’s dialogue in a believable way and while both Chastain and Hiddleston are able to ride that line in perfect stride, both Wasikowska and Hunnam falter and stumble along the way.
It’s clear what message and theme del Toro set out to tell in Crimson Peak, and while he uses the ghosts to help emphasize his metaphor, the symbolism is too on-the-nose throughout the film that by the time the last scene begins, it’s hard not to role your eyes from how painfully obvious everything is. Like many of the best horror movies that have come before, the filmmaker packs Peak with many horrifying ghosts and jump scares, while leaving the truly terrifying and monstrous acts to the humans they haunt – an interesting dynamic that could have shined on its own if not for the giant spotlight the creative team decided they needed to put on it.
Crimson Peak is one of the most gorgeous-looking horror films ever made probably, and the details put into every nook and cranny of Allendale Hall provide a history to the old building from the moment we step foot inside. Unfortunately, the attention to detail placed upon the look of the film is not reciprocated onto its characters or story, leaving me thinking that if del Toro had not stood so close to his painting’s surface – he might not have missed as many of the more important broad strokes.
Crimson Peak hits theatres this Friday, October 16th.
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