Overview: As the new lady of the estate, a young woman finds secrets more ominous behind the groans and creaks of the house built on red; Legendary Pictures; 2015; Rated R; 119 minutes.
Knowing: Prior to Edith Cushing’s (Mia Wasikowska) infatuation with the foreign inventor, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and, for viewers, prior to the beginning credits, it is known that Crimson Peak sits upon land stained red and kept vibrant by the blood of the dead. The many moving parts are intended as clues alluding to the removed, and uncharacteristically, intimate nature of Thomas and his dear sister, Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Patterns and clues form early on: the tea, the pen, the intense focus on another particularly significant object, and the distinct displeasure Lady Lucille seethes towards the gentle, yet spunky Edith. Even with the numerous hints and the anticlimactic scene exposing what was behind the closed door, Guillermo del Toro is still able to punctuate the heavy-handedness with a sort of shock.
Dread: Purist horror fanatics may be disappointed by how the movie’s sense of uneasiness dwindles at an alarming rate. The jump-scares and chase scenes are more prominent in the beginning of the movie, but standard fear becomes a secondary goal in the latter half of the film. Edith’s investigative nature acts to both stir settled matters of the past and fuel supernatural encounters. Soon after Edith uncovers the intentions of the visiting dead, the specters become almost crudely tangible. The ghosts are not intended to be horror proper ; more so, they function as narrative a metaphor, a story untold and a source of visual stimulation and complexity that actually breathes.
Cushing vs. Sharpe: The moment Edith and Lucille are introduced, a strange competition is apparent. Although it is the marriage of Edith and Thomas that drives the story and its characters to Crimson Peak, every scene along the way is composed of the balance and counterbalance of Lucille’s fervent, obsessive, and insidious brashness to Edith’s airy, vibrant good-naturedness. This is not the tried (and sometimes tiresome) tale of good against evil. Their opposition to one another is understanding versus misunderstanding. When Edith’s childhood friend, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) and her new husband Thomas intervene, the women counter, using their weapons to render the men narratively useless. Chastain and Waskikowska are the story’s most captivating element, alluring in their intellect and consuming in their combative dynamic.
Overall: True to Guillermo del Toro’s proven fashion, Crimson Peak turns the grotesque into the beautiful, overlapping traditional Gothic storytelling with the cinematic dressing of modern cinematic horror.