Editor’s Note: This review features spoilers.
I went into this movie expecting it essentially to be Jane Eyre with a serial murderer thrown in, and that’s basically what I got.
Crimson Peak stars Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing, a young American woman who aspires to be an author, and can see ghosts. Her co-stars are Tom Hiddleston as Sir Thomas Sharpe, a mysterious English aristocrat and inventor, and Jessica Chastain as Lady Lucille Sharpe, Thomas’s standoffish, sadistic sister.
The film opens with a shot of a bruised and bloodied Edith wandering anxiously outside through the snow. The rest of the movie takes the form of an extended flashback.
At 10-years-old Edith loses her mother to cholera and soon after she sees her ghost. In a suspenseful scene, her mother’s ghost takes the form of a black, semi-skeletal spectre. Young Edith cowers as her mother’s ghost grabs her arm and whispers:
“Beware of Crimson Peak.”
Flashing forward to an adult Edith, she has just completed her novel and is about to submit it to a publisher. The publisher rejects her manuscript, much to her chagrin. He advises her to add a love plot to her ghost story.
Edith eventually crosses paths with the film’s antagonists, the Sharpe siblings when Thomas Sharpe lobbies her father, a successful man of industry, to invest in his clay mining machine.
The audience also learns that the Sharpe family estate is situated on top of a clay mine, and their mansion is slowly sinking into the earth, making the sibling’s financial situation a dire one.
Edith’s father denies Thomas’s request for investments, forcing him to acquire his capital through other means.
Thomas then begins to court Edith.
Bypassing a spoiler moment in the film, the two eventually marry and move to England with the his sister. Here, Edith grows suspicious of the siblings, prompting her to delve into their dark past.
The ghosts in this film are creepy, to put it plainly. Director Guillermo del Toro depicts his ghosts as decomposing creatures, all of whom carry the characteristics of their living bodies. For example, a ghost who walked with a limp in life, carries the same gait in death.
Many of the ghosts possess an eerie crimson hue, as they were buried in the red clay of the Sharpe estate, Allerdale Hall, better known among locals as Crimson Peak.
I would hesitate to call this movie a horror film, perhaps suspense or thriller would be more appropriate labels.
The film definitely carries gothic elements, however. For those that don’t know, gothic narratives are defined, by bookrags.com, as focusing on “ruin, decay, death, terror and chaos.” Those themes simply pervade Crimson Peak, oozing out of every orifice of this film, just as molten clay oozes from the crumbling walls of Allerdale Hall.
The house itself is designed beautifully, even though it looks dilapidated. The house is perhaps the perfect encapsulation of gothic motifs. Its deterioration parallels the decay of the Sharpe family and the lingering influence of the past.
The film is hardly about the ghosts; the main conflict of this film is among the living. Toward the beginning of the film, Edith defends her novel from the publisher’s criticism by saying that she did not write a ghost story, but rather a story with ghosts in it. They are a metaphor, she says, for the past.
That philosophy holds true. The ghosts of Crimson Peak function not only as literal ghosts, but also as a reminder of the past, and the way in which a dark past never really goes away.
I got exactly what I expected from this film, some good scares, phenomenal acting and a degree of mystery. While I did like it, the plot is nothing, if not predictable.
It seemed that within two minutes of Edith entering Allerdale Hall, I was on to the Sharpe siblings’ plot. The majority of astute viewers probably will be able to solve the mystery in about the same amount of time.
In spite of that fact, I was still able to enjoy myself and the film.
If you’re looking for a period piece that is equal parts morbid and mysterious, this is the film for you. Overall, I’d say del Toro did a superb job, though the film could have used a more complex mystery.
Final Verdict: A-
Featured Photo: Photo courtesy of Flickr user Craig Duffy.
Mitchell Wilson is a sophomore English and government and politics double major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.