Crimson Peak movie full length review - "Crimson Peak" is a great "gothic romance" and one of Guillermo del Toro's best films.
Guillermo del Toro is a brilliant director and a fascinating man, but also a study in contradictions. Most of his films are categorized as fantasy and/or horror, but he sees his movies as basically "political" in nature.
His films usually include monsters because he feels they represent great power, but his stories are often about defeating the power of individuals or institutions. He'll describe himself as an atheist, but in the next breath add, "Once a Catholic, always Catholic, in a way". He's also said that he views art as his religion in that his commitment to it is almost spiritual. He has alternated between small, Spanish-language fantasy films and huge, English-language science fiction movies. He's best known for his writing and directing, but he's more prolific as a producer of different kinds of films. In spite of these apparent contradictions, he's not a man who doesn't understand who he is or why he does what he does. Rather, he's a director of great vision and his work is remarkably consistent in style and tone. His 2015 release, "Crimson Peak" (R, 1:59) feels like a combination of all his contradictions ? and strengths.
"Ghosts are real, that much I know. I've seen them all my life." So intones Edith Cushing as the film opens. She makes her statement without passion or fear, but as a simple matter of fact. As a young woman submitting a novel she wrote to a potential publisher who calls it a ghost story, she protests. She says that the story just happens to have a ghost in it ? as a metaphor. She may accept the existence of ghosts as a fact of life, but they scare her as much as they would any of us. The first ghost she sees is that of her mother, who died when Edith was a little girl. The frightening wispy specter dressed in black warns her daughter to "beware of Crimson Peak", but doesn't explain what that means. Damn ghosts.
Yes, she sees dead people, but they know they're dead, and they don't control her life. Edith (Mia Wasikowska) may see ghosts more readily than those around her, but she's far more focused on becoming a writer. It's tough for a female author to be taken seriously in early 20th century Buffalo. She decides to mail off her manuscript ? after rewriting it on one of those new-fangled typewriters, so her handwriting won't betray her gender. Busy typing in the office of her father, industrialist Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), Edith meets Englishman Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). He's also having a hard time being taken seriously. He's looking for investors for his invention, a machine to remove clay from the ground. Carter, however, sees Thomas as a privileged aristocrat, rather than a serious entrepreneur.
Edith sees something else. She's quite taken with the English gentleman, and he with her. Thomas' sister, Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain), isn't so sure about Edith ? and Edith's father isn't so sure about Thomas. Carter hires a private investigator to check into Thomas' background. What Carter learns is more than enough for Carter to want Thomas gone. Thomas leaves, but he convinces Edith to come with him ? and be his bride. They marry and journey to his English estate, where a large, but dark and creepy-looking house sits, in an advancing state of decay, on a red clay hill that the locals call Crimson Peak.
Edith doesn't yet know of her new home's nickname. In fact, there's a lot about the house and her new family that she doesn't know. Lucille, who also lives in the house, is as cold to Edith as that main hall with a gaping hole in its roof. Thomas ominously warns his new wife not to go below the house's main level. And then there are the ghosts. (Yes, ghosts ? plural.) Edith's mom comes to call, but isn't any more forthcoming with her mysterious warnings than she was when Edith was a little girl. The other ghosts in the house are even less specific about what they want, or even who they are. Edith has suffered no harm in the house, but the secrets that she learns are terrifying and creepy ? in more ways than one.
This is an unusually accessible del Toro film. It's not as bizarre as "Pan's Labyrinth", as violent as the "Hell Boy" movies or as bloated as "Pacific Rim" (as good as those films are). But don't get scared. "Crimson Peak" is very much a Guillermo del Toro movie, in themes, tone and style. Built just for this film, the house is simultaneously beautiful and frightening. And you needn't go any further than the film's advertising to see indications of the director's preference for dark reddish hues. In fact, the posters make it very clear that this movie features creative and striking visuals. Besides that magnificent main set, the cinematography is gorgeous, the images of the ghosts are terrific and the costumes are incredible. At times, however, the movie feels like an expensive version of a television true crime mystery, complete with dips to black for commercial breaks, but those impressions are fleeting. This "gothic romance", as del Toro calls it, is much more than a ghost story. You could say it's a scary movie which happens to have ghosts in it. Edith would. I'd say that it's one of del Toro's best films to date. "A-"