Thursday, October 22, 2015

Crimson Peak

CRIMSON PEAK (Guillermo del Toro, 2015)

In CRIMSON PEAK Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is an aspiring writer of ghost stories, although the publisher wishes she would come up with something more conventional and romantic. Edith admits that the ghosts are metaphors for the past, but she has been visited by the spirit of her mother bearing the warning not to go to Crimson Peak. She meets Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) when they come to Buffalo to find investors for his invention. Thomas and Edith become romantically involved against her father’s objections, but after tragedy strikes, Edith weds Thomas and accompanies him to his crumbling family estate in England.

Director and co-writer Guillermo del Toro has made it a point of emphasis while doing the publicity rounds that despite the film’s ghosts, CRIMSON PEAK is not a horror film but a Gothic romance in the tradition of JANE EYRE and REBECCA. In truth there’s not really much romance in it either. Edith and Thomas’s marriage is an arrangement of convenience and exploitation. Although feelings change, CRIMSON PEAK never boils with erotic passion between husband and wife or inside one of them.

And yet while CRIMSON PEAK lacks heat or surprises in its conventional story, del Toro captures the imagination with sumptuous visual treats throughout. The spacious, decrepit house is a marvel of production design and art direction. The intricate costumes manifest the emotional undercurrents, with Edith dressed as though she’s wearing a chrysalis while living at Allerdale Hall and Lucille bound in what she wears as tightly as she and her brother are connected to their home. The clay-reddened snow that looks like it’s been bloodied is such a striking image, especially with that imposing manor looming over it. These elements contribute to the mood, which del Toro treats with primary importance rather than investing energy into the familiar plot. The romance, it turns out, is with the look and feel of rotting mansions and scarred psyches. In that CRIMSON PEAK has more than enough to keep one captivated.

Grade: B

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