Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam
Genre: Gothic romance, fantasy, drama, horror
Released: 14th October 2015
A tale of secrets, love, and what these will drive a person to do in their name, is interwoven with the supernatural in this new film by Guillermo del Toro ,the creative mind of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. Del Toro is no stranger to the horror/Gothic romance genre, and makes good use of that familiarity to create a beautifully eerie world set in the early 19th century, filled with incredible attention to detail and striking imagery.
The story is much like any other “boy meets girl, girl falls madly in love with boy, boy and girl elope and then boy takes girl back to creepy crumbling mansion with ghosts and seeping red clay oozing from the floor…”, you know, that old chestnut. The girl in question, our heroine, is Edith Cushing, a young budding writer, and the boy she falls madly for is the mysterious Thomas Sharpe, a baron from England. After their whirlwind courtship Edith discovers her new home Arandale Hall holds more to it than just its mere four walls, testing her heart and mind’s resolve.
The production design of Arandale Hall is filled with so much detail, that it is almost a character in itself. The shape of the hallway arches have the appearance of something reaching out for you. Every element of the manor gives off a dark alien feeling as Edith gets accustomed to her new surroundings. The fact that the house was actually built for the film inserts a genuine sense of realism thus helping the audience, and I’m sure the actors themselves, to feel more immersed in this world.
It is hard to fault anyone’s performances with a lot of the main cast playing to their strengths. Mia Wasikowska does well to channel the independently thinking modern woman of her time, as she did in Jane Eyre. Tom Hiddleston seamlessly portrays a charismatic but conflicted man in Thomas Sharpe and accomplishes in showing a great depth of emotion in his eyes alone. Though everyone is effortless in their roles, the MVP has to go to Jessica Chastain with her chilling portrayal of Lucille Sharpe (sister to Hiddleston’s Thomas). In the first scene you meet Lucille as the camera pans to her playing the piano. Even before she speaks she exudes a demeanour as cold as Arandale Hall and as the movie progresses, Chastain achieves a brilliant and slowly seething performance as Lucille’s cold exterior crumbles away to reveal something else entirely.
Crimson Peak delivers all the classic elements of a Gothic romance, and the cast performances, direction and production design do a tremendous job in bringing it all together. If you can look past HIddleston and Wasikowska’s somewhat modest chemistry, the film as a whole offers a well rounded yet pleasantly unsettling viewing.