This film is and is not a lot of things. It is frightening, but it is not a horror film. It is a romance, but it’s rarely romantic. It is an absolute masterpiece, but it is not without flaws.
Crimson Peak has been one of my favorite films since I saw it in theaters, so inspiring that it led me to write my favorite of my novels. It’s exquisitely crafted, impeccably cast, and classically written, those pieces coming together to form what could only have been brought to life by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth).
Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) is Edith Cushing, a bookish writer more affectionate to Mary Shelley than Jane Austen. Her friend is interested in her, but Edith is far more drawn to the visiting baronet, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers). When tragedy befalls Cushing’s family, leaving her an orphan, Edith runs away to England with Thomas, now his bride.
It’s all fine, at least until desperate, bloody ghosts start telling her to leave. As time goes on, it becomes clear that the Sharpes have more on their mind than love. The siblings have a dark, murderous past, and Edith begins to suspect she may not make it out of that house alive.
Let me talk about the performances for a bit. The trio of Wasikowska, Hiddleston, and Jessica Chastain is one of the most effective of all time. Chastain, my favorite actress, has rarely been better as the tormented Lucille, and the same can be said of nearly anyone else in this film. There is such a level of commitment, I don’t know if I’ve ever been as convinced.
From the technical side, I cannot recall a more exemplary production design or immersive cinematography, which go together impossibly well for this film. The dilapidated, expansive Allerdale Hall was built for the picture, including all its creaks and oozing pipes, and the wide-angle lens makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the actual space. I’m not kidding when I say I’m transfixed every time I see a scene by the stairwell, because it’s like the film was shot in three dimensions.
These aspects cover up any flaws the film has, though each is worth noting. For one, dialogue replacement has been used in this film, and it’s not always accurate, often different words than are coming out of the actor’s mouth. The second main issue is the editing, which tries so hard for seamless cuts that it makes them more obvious.
But I truly don’t want to dwell on them. Those things aside, I’ve truly never seen a movie quite like this. The flaws are more forgivable when you consider the good intentions behind them.
Crimson Peak undeniably changed my life. It made me a fan of Guillermo del Toro, and even Mexican filmmakers in general. Its promotional campaign may have been misleading in terms of genre, but there are few films I’d recommend more than this one. Very, very few films.
Crimson Peak is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.
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