Crimson Peak

Film Review by Josh Slater-Willams | 15 Oct 2015
Film title: Crimson Peak
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman
Release date: 16 Oct
Certificate: 15

Why do you watch horror? If it's solely about preying on your primal fears through a high-concept premise, it's possible you might not get a great deal out of Guillermo Del Toro's gothic opus Crimson Peak

If you're after jump scares, then you'll probably hate it. If, however, you're attuned to and appreciative of the ways in which some of the best horror films can not be about boogeyman scares, but instead cover a wide array of different emotional concerns, then proceed with less caution. 

Imbued with the aesthetic and tonal spirit of bombastic, luxuriantly-coloured, oft-melodramatic Euro-horrors of the 1960s (think the films of Mario Bava or Roger Corman's Edgar Allen Poe adaptations), Crimson Peak also has a dash of The Innocents (and thus The Turn of the Screw) and specific Hitchcocks (Rebecca and Psycho) in its lush blood, as well as a bit of Brontë – a good chunk of the story could be interpreted as Jane Eyre with more literal ghosts.

It's the year 1901. Mia Wasikowska (who played Jane Eyre in the 2011 adaptation) is our heroine Edith Cushing – an aspiring writer, daughter of a wealthy New York industrialist (Beaver), and prone to seeing ghosts. The Shelley-loving Edith encounters Byron-esque baronet Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), who's travelled to America to pitch for funding of his lavish new mining technology back in England.

Thanks to plot developments that won't be spoiled here, Edith becomes his bride, and the pair move back to his home of Allerdale Hall in Cumberland, a both rotting and ravishing mansion whose interiors recall Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel if the Cenobites of Hellraiser took over the lease and spruced up the place. The building's position above a red clay mine means a lot of crimson seeps up into the sinking house, as though the property's gushing with gory pain at the dark secrets held within.

Thomas' intentions for Edith are not so pure, nor is he quite so unmarried, as initially believed. At the behest of an influx of paranormal messengers, Edith must deduce the plans and past of Thomas and his creepy housemate sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain, channelling Barbara Steele for some great dark humour) and save herself. 

Low on fright but riveting entertainment thanks to its three leads and evocative, intricately detailed production design, Crimson Peak is also a surprisingly heartbreaking movie – a potent look at how fear and love can be intertwined, and the difficulties of redemption in light of evil deeds.

Released by Universal