Known for gothic horrors like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone as well as more mainstream American movies like Hellboy and Pacific Rim, director Guillermo del Toro is a master of dark fantasy. His latest film, Crimson Peak, is a big-budget Hollywood horror film. Crimson Peak sets up a Jane Austen-esque romance but quickly reveals a dark underbelly in charming suitor Sir Thomas Sharpe (Thomas Hiddelston).
Mia Wasikowska, who is no novice to twisted fairytales, having also starred as Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, plays the heroine Edith, and Jessica Chastain rounds out the all-star cast as Lucille, the brooding sister of Sir Sharpe. An impressive cast and budget provide Crimson Peak with plenty of visual intrigue, but the film, which opens areawide today, falls short in its plot and also its scare-factor.
Those who know del Toro’s work won’t be surprised to find that the film is visually stunning— with amber, green and yellow mood lighting, the contrasts of light and color make each scene an aesthetically satisfying experience. The primary setting is a withered mansion in the English hills that has “a life of its own,” with leaves falling through its high, cracked ceilings and thick red clay seeping through its walls (hence the film’s title). The forbidden bottom floor is not left a mystery for long, as badass Edith takes full roam of the mansion and slowly starts to unravel the secrets of the house and its keepers.
Despite its rich production design, Crimson Peak lacks a complex storyline. Within the first ten minutes of the film, moviegoers have met the ghosts and identified the evil characters, leaving the audience to wonder what is left but to watch the story unfold? The film is lacking in “a-ha” moments; del Toro’s visual ploys don’t really further the plot so much as enrich the visual landscape. The characters, however, aren't just foils; female characters Edith and Lucille are the ones who get their hands dirty, and Sir Thomas Sharpe reveals himself to be a bit more complex than we might have thought. Del Toro fans are bound to be a little disappointed by the flat storyline, but the film’s ambience will definitely get you in the mood for the season.