Crimson Peak (2015)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Doug Jones
Every time a Guillermo del Toro film premieres I get giddy as a schoolboy because you know, he’s one of the modern day greats. There’s no denying he’ll go down as one of the greats of his generation, and best part of all is that he’s all about horror and sci-fi, and trust me, a director who is as knowledgeable about the genre as he is, is not an easy thing to find. I mean, sure there’re directors making horror films out there, but most of them don’t truly understand and love horror, they don’t know all the right movies to borrow from, they don’t have that fanboy mentality. Not even half of them. Guillermo del Toro is a rare breed of director and I, as a fan of the genre, truly appreciate whatever he does because you just know it comes from someone who knows his shit. So of course I was excited when word of Crimson Peak came out, I just knew Guillermo del Toro was going to load it with an extra dose of Gothic sensibilities! So did he? Did Crimson Peak disappoint?
Story is all about this writer called Edith Cushing, who’s swept off her feet by Thomas Sharpe, an entrepreneur who comes into town looking for financial backup for one of his business ventures. He doesn’t find it, but he does find Edith, whom he immediately falls in love with and marries. He takes her with him to his mansion in London. The mansion looks awesome and it’s huge, but it’s kind of old and falling apart. Ghosts have been warning Edith (who is a bit of a psychic) about something called ‘Crimson Peak’, what are these ghosts talking about? Should Edith listen to them?
If you are a horror connoisseur, then you’ll be picking up references and plot lines from a zillion old horror movies all throughout Crimson Peak. For example, there’s an obvious influence by films like Robert Wise’s TheHaunting (1963) and The Innocents (1961) which are spooky horror movies that rely more on psychological horror rather than on anything we actually see, which is kind the ‘modus operandi’ on Crimson Peak because while the film does have its share of ghosts and spooks, it doesn’t rely only on them to create its dreadful mood. This movie is more about ambiance. I wouldn’t necessarily call this film a true blue horror movie though. Like its main character Edith, who writes stories that aren’t ghost stories, but rather stories with “ghosts in them”. The same can certainly be said of Crimson Peak which is actually more of a love story with horror elements in a Gothic setting, which of course is cool as well. Here’s a movie that maintains its spooky Gothic vibe all the way through to the end. It never lets go of its spookiness, any true horror fan will understand just how great that is. Now, this is not to say that the film isn’t scary of horrifying, it has its bloody, scary, spooky moments. It has stormy nights and ghosts and things that go bump in the night, but with a tragic romance attached to it as well.
Speaking of influences, I’d say that the biggest influence on this film is Roger Corman’s The Fall of the House of Usher (1960) which by the way is one of my favorite films to see on Halloween night. I’ve already re-watched it this October and enjoyed every part of its spooky, atmospheric vibe. Same as The Fall of the House of Usher, Crimson Peak is about family legacies, houses that are falling apart, doomed romances and that constant dreadful atmosphere. That idea that houses can carry evil across generations; that the ground on which the house was built is cursed and therefore so is the family that lives in it; all these elements can be found on both films. And yet another huge influence on del Toro is, his own film The Devils Backbone (2001). On Crimson Peak we once again have ghosts with blood that floats up into thin air and disappears, which is kind of trademark of Guillermo del Toro at this point. So as you can see, Crimson Peak is an old fashioned horror story, inspired by the best old fashioned horror movies.
Same as all Guillermo del Toro films Crimson Peak is a beautiful film to look at; del Toro once again plays with the color palette in truly satisfying ways, so much so that color actually plays an integral part of the story, which of course makes sense in a film called ‘Crimson Peak’. The art direction is excellent; the house looks gorgeously gothic. It’s that kind of film where 90% of it takes place mostly inside of a house, again, same as Corman’s House of Usher which takes place entirely in one location. For this film, Guillermo del Toro decided to focus primarily on the art production, the set design, which makes sense because if your whole film is centered around a house, then you’d better make damn sure it’s one awesome looking set with lots of nooks and crannies to shoot in, which is exactly what they did here. The house is awesome, worthy of standing next to some of the best haunted house films like Jan De Bont’s The Haunting (1999), which I think is actually a very underrated haunted house film. So anyhow, is there anything wrong with del Toro’s Crimson Peak? Personally, I would have amped up the horror and the ghosts a bit, but then again, it’s not my film, it’s del Toro’s. So Crimson Peak is what it is; a gothic romance with some excellent atmosphere and in many ways, the perfect film to watch on Halloween night! So if you see only one spooky film in theaters this Halloween, Crimson Peak is an excellent choice.
Rating: 4 out of 5