Crimson Peak (2015)
Incessantly gothic, instantaneously bewitching & indubitably hypnotic from the first frame to the last, Crimson Peak is an ingeniously assembled, beautifully shot & splendidly performed cinema from Guillermo del Toro that blends the elements of horror, fantasy & romance in an exquisite manner, is decorated with sumptuous-looking set pieces, and manages to sustain its ominous atmosphere with great effectiveness.
Crimson Peak tells the story of Edith Cushing, a young & aspiring author, who meets & falls in love with Sir Thomas Sharpe, a charming English baronet, who’s in the country to present his invention to Edith’s wealthy father. But when an unexpected family tragedy strikes, she decides to get away from her past, marries Sharpe & moves into his mansion, where he lives with his sister. Soon, Edith finds out that this place has a life of its own for it both breathes & bleeds.
Co-written & directed by Guillermo del Toro, Crimson Peak is absolutely gorgeous to look at but that doesn’t come off as a surprise for del Toro always had a knack for visuals & beauty. However, this latest fable from the acclaimed filmmaker is equally mesmerising in content & is possibly his finest work since Pan’s Labyrinth. The script is another little gem that fills the story with interesting bunch of characters, intelligently plays with the conventions of its genre(s) and is thoroughly refined.
Coming to the technical aspects, Production design is a definite highlight for the set pieces are extensively detailed, especially the dilapidated mansion belonging to the Sharpes where majority of its plot takes place, and the team has done a fabulous job. The director relies on these settings to create a ghostly environment and the way del Toro makes the house come alive is highly reminiscent of the mansion in The Haunting. In short, every detail contributes to the haunting aura this film tries to set up.
Cinematography adds another layer to the whole picture with its brilliantly staged shots and every single moment looks irresistibly attractive. The lighting is picture perfect while the use of colours is simply fabulous, both in intensity & composition, and the camera manoeuvres, angles & transitions are smoothly carried out. Editing is skilfully done and makes sure that each scene that ends up in the finished version is relevant to the plot in one way or another. And finally, the background score seamlessly integrates into the storyline.
As far as performances go, Crimson Peak features a fantastic cast in Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston & Jessica Chastain, and all three of them are just terrific in their respective roles. Wasikowska at the start felt like a miscast but her act only gets better as plot moves ahead. Hiddleston delivers another charming performance but he’s often overshadowed by the two ladies who steal the show. Chastain is the standout in my opinion for her performance is as twisted as it is charged with emotions plus her scenes with Wasikowska are truly a delight to watch.
On an overall scale, Crimson Peak isn’t a ghost story but a story that just happens to have ghosts in it. The plot is clearly explained by Wasikowska’s character in an earlier sequence in the film when Edith is describing her manuscript to the editor and every little bit of it applies to the story we end up witnessing. It may not be scary in the visceral sense and the ghosts (which may look CGI but aren’t) have little role to play but that doesn’t take anything away from the chilling vibe, tense ambience & blood-filled gore it has in store. A symphony of love, written in blood & presented like an enchanting poetry, Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is one of the best films of its year.