Crimson Peak is the latest offering from the gothic palate of Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth and a whole heap of other unhinged visual treats…) Mrs L has been waiting for this one with an utter lack of patience due to her deep-seated love of all things del Toro-esque. Have a look at the sumptuous trailer that has been nagging at us for the last few months.
Crimson Peak does that thing that a lot of Guillermo del Toro’s films do, and confounds the audience by hinting at one genre whilst deftly delivering quite another. We are given a “parlour mystery” set against the back-drop of the excitement of the New World. Mysterious stranger, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddlestone), plays the Englishman in New York of the Sting song. Del Toro’s New York flips the “hope and dreams” promise of the promised land, turning it into a conservative driven establishment to which Sharpe seems like the man of lost and final hope.
New York is plain, and damp and wet. There is death, but the blood is diluted and washed away in a way that contrasts the ephemeral nature of the New World with the history and ancestry of the film’s later acts. Del Toro often plays with the theme of the dark staining of history on his worlds and his love of the visually gothic-macabre comes to the fore in the representation of the desolate landscape of Northumberland. Whereas the New York, of Crimson Peak, is rainy and business-like, the family home of the Sharpes’ is a breathing crippled organism that exists on a land that is so barren that it cannot even manage to rain. It is Bleak House crossed with Scooby-Doo.
As Butcher quite succinctly puts it,
Hugglestone (sic) is wide-eyed and beautiful, playing a good turn in conveying the ambiguity of his character.
and he is now ploughing a solid career as the rogue-you-want-to-love English actor. Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) echoes the audience in her desire to see the best of Sharpe. It is, however, Jessica Chastain as the sister who steals the scenes. There is a darkness to both Sharpe siblings but you always feel that Lucille has embraced a fate that her brother is still trying to escape. Chastain is fast becoming one of those actors that make you seek you films to watch her in. According to Mrs L (who knows things) Del Toro originally wrote the character of Sharpe for Benedict Cumberbatch. He would have been a more scheming beau for Cushing. Arguably the choice of Hiddlestone, and the subsequent re-characterisation makes for more star-crossed love-story.
The big question that arises for anyone buying tickets to Crimson Peak is really, what are you expecting? Sure, it has elements of horror but equally there is, as Mrs L put it, a Rom-Com in there too. If you are a fan of Del Toro’s sumptuous world-building then you are getting good ticket value. As Butcher says,
Del Toro’s trademark strong visual effects and lush sets drew me in… recurring symbols of decay and death, with some tongue in cheek over the top Gothic elements, such as a landscape that is permanently welling up with the crimson clay of the title… And a turreted house that looms over the characters acting a key role itself.
Del Toro himself has called Crimson Peak “a gothic love-story” and that sums it up rather well. There is horror but it’s done in a way that you accept the blood and gore because it is just there. The true horror is the actions of the people and that makes it a proper dark and chilling tale.
Mrs L was delighted by the richness of the visuality of Crimson Peak and unshocked by the sight of a naked Hiddlestone bottom. I was ambivalent to some of the set-up character in act one but found the core 3 players hit each beat well. Leaving the (almost) last word to Butcher…
The characters eventually feel (a little) two-dimensional despite the size of the screen. It felt like the story had a lack of engaging twists but it’s still entertaining, in a relatively straightforward narrative of barely-hidden horror with a respectable nerve shredding chase sequence to finish. There is plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour, and some aspects even feel a little Agatha Christie-like in the explanation of what happened later.
This seemed like a decent excuse for an IMAX visit, and so, loaded on coffee and cake and accompanied by a bewildered and bearded Butcher, we armed ourselves with chocolate coated Brazil nuts ready to face the secrets of Crimson Peak.
Butcher has never been to an IMAX screening…
..a long while since I went to cinema… Never experienced IMAX! Reminded me a bit of when I was much younger, as a lad, and the sound and visuals draw you in… quite immersive. The volume and clarity of the screen detail definitely enhanced the experience.
Should you go?
Crimson Peak is a solid romp through a, so far, under-mined genre. It is a solid gothic love-story with some stunningly constructed scenes. If you want something a little less than schlock and a little more than doomed love, then it’s a winner – with 3 convincing turns in the leads.
John learned a lot about how to present a business plan from Crimson Peak. Butcher is a mild-mannered man who was coerced into coming to the pictures with the promise of Brazil nuts. Mrs L is a constant companion and Guillermo del Toro fanatic. None of us feel that Tom Hiddlestone’s arse was either gratuitous, not CGI…