Review: “Crimson Peak” stuns as a gothic drama

Andrew Shermoen

Guillermo del Toro is a spectacular director. He’s always had an eye for beautiful visuals that are ironically placed in situations where they should be ugly. His two films “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Pacific Rim” are filled with terrifying monsters that should look horrifying, but are truly gorgeous in their design. Del Toro’s most recent film “Crimson Peak” is more of the same, with beautiful visuals, a few scares and a pretty entertaining story to go along with it.

Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is the daughter of a business man, Carter (Jim Beaver), in the Victorian era. Her father is visited by Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a member of British aristocracy, who is working to fix his family’s financial misfortunes. Edith and Thomas take a liking to each other and, following a family tragedy, are married and move to his estate. Edith lives there with Thomas and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Edith also has an ability to see spirits and is shocked by the number of spirits haunting the old house. The spirits try to communicate with her, and Edith slowly realizes that not only is the house dangerous, but that the Sharpes are not what they seem.

The visuals of this film are beautiful; I expect nothing but the best from del Toro. He is a cinematic mastermind and knows how to paint a scene. The house is in a state of disrepair, but there is a certain beauty as the main hall’s floor is covered in leaves and snow from a massive hole in the ceiling. The later scenes of the red-stained snow is both beautiful and haunting, and is perfectly woven into the story. The beauty of Edith and Thomas embracing as his long trench coat whips around them is such an amazing visual that adds so much intimate imagery to the film. Some of my favorite scenes of the film take place in the terrifying basement of the house.

The performances are wonderful. Mia Wasikowska’s performance as Edith is convincing as a haunted, but powerful soul who finds solace in Thomas and Lucille’s lives. Her motivations are always understandable. Tom Hiddleston is terrific; he works as both a dastardly manipulator and a gothic heartthrob. It’s easy to understand why Edith would be drawn in by his hypnotic spell, and his internal conflict related to his feelings for Edith are also very well portrayed. The performance that really impressed me, though, was from Jessica Chastain. She is distant, haunting, charming–I was in complete awe of her performance. One wonders if Chastain ever took a break from being in character during filming because her role is done with such gravitas that it is difficult to imagine her as anyone except Lucille Sharpe. The juxtaposition between her character in this film and in “The Martian” was delightful, it was entertaining to see her play two extremely different characters.

In terms of what wasn’t great about the film, there were a few plot holes, and some characters seemingly had little purpose. Burn Gorman’s performance as Holly was terrific, but was consistently put in scenes lower than his abilities. I also found that some of the dialogue was weak and I wished it had strayed away from the cliché.

All in all, I really enjoyed this film. It’s not only visually pleasing, but its story is quite entertaining and set in a time period and genre that we sadly do not see enough of anymore. I hope to see more films in the gothic genre, and that the seeds sewn by the mind of the brilliantly crazy del Toro will be the changing factor.