Gothic Gone Wrong
First, the good news. Crimson Peak ends up being a visual treat, like most Guillermo del Toro’s films, especially Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. The production design, cinematography, color palettes, atmosphere, special effects, costumes and make-up earn high marks for this dark Gothic love story. And the first part of the film succeeds in drawing us into the world of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), a young aspiring writer with enough gumption to take her novel directly to a publisher.
Edith, the daughter of a wealthy self-made business man (Jim Beaver), appears to be more independent than most women who live in New York during the early 1900s. She has resisted her father’s wishes that she marry longtime friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Charles Hunnam). But romance comes into Edith’s life when the aristocratic Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) arrives on the scene with his intense sister (Jessica Chastain) and tries to persuade Edith’s father to invest in his new invention. After a suspicious tragedy occurs, Edith marries Thomas, who takes her to his family’s Allerdale Hall in rural England. So far, so good. We are completely hooked on the story and the characters.
Now for the bad news. Because it pains me to say anything negative about a Guillermo del Toro offering, perhaps a poem will soften the blow.
She trusts a man who says he cares.
How can she know she’s in for scares?
He takes her to his family home,
a crumbling manse with open dome.
But even worse is danger from
a jealous kin out for a sum.
Foreboding sets help evoke doom
in hallways, stairs and every room.
An elevator: up and down
so many times, I had to frown.
And candlesticks alit at night
soon ceased to give me any fright.
The cast seems fine most of the time.
Still, repetition is the crime.
This Crimson Peak just creaks along
with ghosts and things that all go wrong.
From the time Edith enters the huge Allerdale Hall, she appears like a different person altogether. Her gumption must have got up and left. But, in all fairness, the deteriorating mansion would probably unhinge most people. (SPOILER ALTERT) One of the worst things that happens to Edith involves a whopper of a fall. How she recovers so rapidly is the most unbelievable thing that happens in this uneven film. I could accept the ghosts, who aren’t very scary -- but after that dreadful fall incident, it was hard for me to suspend disbelief any longer.
Still, I felt sorry for the three key actors -- Wasikowska, Hiddleston and Chastain -- who continued to soldier on through a no longer fascinating and highly predictable plot. Chastain in particular deserves special recognition for her dynamic portrayal of a character reminiscent of Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca, my favorite Gothic romance flick.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “R” for bloody violence, some sexual content and brief strong language.)
For more information about Crimson Peak, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.