Crimson Peak Haunts With Lavish Production Design (Movie Review)

Crimson PeakIt doesn’t take long to put two and two together when watching the trailers for Crimson Peak.  The onscreen visuals scream unmistakably of Guillermo del Toro.  So much so that I couldn’t see anybody else directing this one, neither could Universal according to the history of this production.  At least Johnny Depp isn’t in this one.  However, I digress.  What really whets my appetite for Crimson Peak is the following quote from del Toro.  “But basically what it is is a really, really, almost classical gothic romance ghost story, but then it has two or three scenes that are really, really disturbing in a very, very modern way.  Very, very disturbing, it’s a proper R rating.  And it’s adult.”  If the man’s planning a gothic romance ghost story that’s really disturbing and scary, who am I to argue with him?  The fact that it has an R-rating is icing on the cake for me.  That means no weak sauce in my wheelhouse.  Enough with the big words, let’s talk some Crimson Peak.

Crimson Peak

So Crimson Peak was originally fleshed out many years ago by del Toro sometime after Pan’s Labyrinth in 2006.  It’s directed by him and shares final writing credits with Matthew Robbins on the screenplay.  It’s billed as a romantic gothic horror film and stars Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam and Jim Beaver.  I don’t know who you are rooting for, but I was excited to sit down with this one and watch two of my favorite stars, Charlie Hunnam from del Toro’s last picture, Pacific Rim, and the ever versatile Loki, Tom Hiddleston.  However, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s catch you up to what kind of goes down in Crimson Peak.

Once we get past all the act One setups, our story mainly takes place in North West England, within a county called Cumbria.  Time-wise, Crimson Peak takes place in the late 19th century.  As you’ve seen from all the trailers there’s also a certain mansion involved (there’s also a reason for the name “Crimson Peak” too).  Things initially get set into motion when young author Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) falls in love and marries Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston).  She soon discovers that her charming new husband is not who he appears to be.  Sound all too familiar?  I know.  Sharpe’s home harbors ghostly, mysterious entities, which he and his sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Chastain), desperately try to deny existence of.  This is where all the fun is at.  I know.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  I never went on record saying there were such things as original stories.

Crimson Peak

In my opinion, the real star of Crimson Peak is not any of the actors, but it’s the production design.  Never has a ghost story looked so hauntingly beautiful to me.  The lavish sets, the sweeping camera pans, rich symbolism and even the romantic circle dissolves all captivated me and kept me invested in the story despite its snail-like pace.  Now I don’t mean to offend.  I know all good horror stories take their time to brew and eventually knock you off your rocker with a shocking twist, scare or an oh my God how did I miss this coming moment.  Crimson Peak did none of the above for me.  Yes, it kept me guessing about what the heck all this red goo we see throughout really is, but in the end the story was nothing more than a “gothic” version of Gothika, or any other ghost revenge tale we’ve all seen one hundred times before.  However, the real appeal of Crimson Peak, as I already stated before, belongs to its rich visuals and the romantic way the story aesthetically played out through the camera’s lens.  It was quite beautiful in that respect.

Del Toro knocked it out of the ballpark for me with Pacific Rim.  However, I know that has nothing to do with the movie we’re here to discuss.  I’m just trying to make a point by laying this out for you.  The man is hit or miss with me.  While I may have loved playing with the Kaju in his last feature, I was bored to tears in other films of his like Pan’s Labyrinth.  I know I’m the minority when it comes to my distaste of the latter film I just mentioned, but I do so to illustrate a point.  While I have mild disdain for Pan’s, I have nothing but love and respect for what he tried to accomplish with Crimson Peak.  It may not warrant the highest score in the originality department for me, but the witty dialogue, the crafty scenery and nostalgia of a time period almost forgotten kept me interested in whatever was about to jump out at me onscreen.  But that’s just it.  In the end, Crimson Peak was not the scary rated-R ghost story I thought it was getting.  Instead it was one of twisted and sick love sprinkled with some awesome sauce known as revenge.  You can’t go wrong there, but I mention solely for those wanting to come into this for the scares.  After all, it’s del Toro folks.  You have to expect he’s going to have a little fun with this one, no?

Crimson Peak

So there you have it folks.  I kind of went over the basics of what you can expect from Crimson Peak. Had the story been a little stronger, we’d be all looking at a much higher score below.  However, in the end, I was very pleased with what I took in.  Things looked great down to the breathtaking cinematography and even the rock solid special effects.  The acting was all appropriate and the production design was absolutely radiant in scope, presentation and pure gothic beauty.  It just all boils down to the execution and twist of the story for me.  I was on board the whole time, but slightly let down.  I kind of wanted more.  Don’t let the dissuade you though.  I still find myself feverishly thinking how awesome this is not only going to look, but also sound on the Blu-ray format (it was a very wicked IMAX experience).  In other words, I’m looking forward to revisiting Crimson Peak again in another several months.  Armed with that knowledge, how bad can it really be?  Crimson Peak is a love story gone wrong, not a Paranormal Activity tale aimed solely to make you jump.  I think del Toro is too smart for that.  If you partake in the gothic romance journey this weekend, make it a good one.  Thanks for reading.

Crimson Peak Movie Poster


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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