CRIMSON PEAK – REVIEW – Loki and Alice in Wonderland get together and go to Tim Burton’s Winter residence in the company of the chick who smoked Bin Laden.
Mexican director, Giullermo Del Toro has had the ‘roller-coaster’ type career with financial and critical highs HellBoy and Pan’s Labyrinth as well as the odd misfire and the protracted disaster of his involvement with The Hobbit movies. Back with regular collaborator Matthew Robbins, Crimson Peak is gore-geous pastiche, a finely wrought and beautifully transcribed love letter to an eclectic bunch of horror influences, written in deep red calligraphy. The Shining Fall of the Hammer House of H.P. Lovecraft, if you will. And you must.
Mia Wasikowska plays Edith Cushing – her name an immediate call back to Hammer regular and Grand Moff Tarkin Peter Cushing – a wealthy young woman with literary aspirations who is doted on by her bootstraps wealthy father (Jim Beaver). When a visiting Baronet Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) comes in search of investment for his mining project, he is rebuffed by the father but despite her initial suspicion of aristocracy, Edith is won over by the handsome stranger who makes the sharp move of praising her writing. Events occur and Edith finds herself whisked away by her new husband to Cumberland in the North of England and a crumbling pile that sits atop a clay mine that stains the snow red and gives the film its title. ensconced with Tom and his mysterious sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) – a reference to the Dolly Parton song… no wait maybe I’m getting carried away – Edith is haunted by ghosts and begins to believe that her life might be in danger as the snow falls through holes in the roof, herbal tea makes her increasingly drowsy and her fortune is signed over to her husband to finance his clay mining in the garden.
Crimson Peak demands that you are engulfed by the sheer visual luxuriousness of its shots, the fluid camera movements, the sumptuously detailed sets, the richly embroidered costumes and the elfin beauty of its actors. We are tangled in a web of references – Mary Shelley and Arthur Conan Doyle are name checked and a ball rolls from the corridors of the Overlook Hotel to the landing of the Sharpe family mansion – and yet at the same time this is pastiche, not parody, and everyone plays their parts with utmost seriousness: Chastain and Hiddleston are particularly riveting. And for all the cleverness on display and sharp wit, Del Toro is not afraid of a little essential stupidity. Edith sleep walks into her situation, having been warned by her dead mother on several occasions, and those around her including the young opthalmicist Dr. McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) seem almost wilfully blind to the machinations of the Sharpes and Hunnam has two long reaction shots of looking puzzled while viewing something incredibly obvious in its suspiciousness. But none of this really matters, or perhaps, more accurately, is part of the genre. This kind of horror is not based on shock revelations or surprise twists but ratehr the dawning realization of what you always knew, succumbing to the fate that was always there before you, as the old house of dark history breathes around you and slowly sinks into the blood red mud.
Crimson Peak is a deliciously dreamy tale of macabre horror.