Figuring I needed to review something more recent, I opted for a film in which I had been sad not being able to catch in theaters. But then again, everything happens for a reason. And was I sure glad to not have wasted money on it. Directed by famed Guillermo Del Torro, I had wanted to watch Crimson Peak because of A: its Gothic beauty, B: Mia Wasikowska, and C: the protagonist was an aspiring writer, (much like myself). For now, let’s just say that the reality of what I was greeted with was different.
Set in the late 19th century, (cue the steampunk imagery), Crimson Peak tells the story of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) marrying handsome and mysterious, Sir Thomas Sharpe, (Tom Hiddleston) after her father mysteriously dies. Edith is then swept away by Thomas to live in his isolated gothic mansion in the English hills along with his distant sister, Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain). But before Edith gets too comfortable, she suspects something odd about the sibling duo. And with the ghosts that repeatedly come to visit and utter strange phrases to Edith, the young heroine intends to unlock the secrets lurking behind the mansion’s ancient walls.
“Ghosts are real, that much I know. I’ve seen them all my life…”
Although I had initially watched the film for the intention of praising Mia Wasikowska’s acting, boy were my expectations backwards. This was honestly the first film in which I saw Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain act. And I was thoroughly impressed with their performances—particularly Jessica Chastain. Chastain’s role as the aloof sister really made me hate her, which meant she was doing her job as an actress. Mia Wasikowska was great as usual, however, I hate to say it, but her acting could’ve improved. I had first seen her in Jane Eyre and figured she was simply emulating her character’s reserved nature. However, when I saw her in this movie, (particularly the ghost scenes), she could’ve attempted to persuade me more that she was actually afraid and not a school girl at a loss for words in front of her crush. Hell, even the child version of Edith did a better job. -__-
Next point = the mangle of clichés present in the film. It drove me insane. Kinda reminded me of Jane Eyre in a way….But starting with some examples: Father not liking potential bachelor due to a weird vibe he gives off? Cliché! Handsome dude coincidentally swoops in to save protagonist from her feelings when her father dies? Cliché! Typical haunted house? Cliché! Something instantly weird *cough* obviously *cough* about the gothic brother and sister? Cliché! Love triangle with childhood friend? (High-pitched singsong) clicheeeee!!! The ghosts’ endless warnings to the protagonists? (Low-pitched, manly sing-song) clicheee!!! Gets knocked out when—ok, I’ll stop talking. But CLICHÉ.
Next rant point = the friggin’ plot development. I wanted to gouge my eyes out. Firstly, I understand that after one’s parent dies, that individual is more prone to vulnerability. However, even though this is a movie, it doesn’t mean the protagonist should be an idiot by jumping into a marriage with a guy she’s just met. Having said that, the chemistry between Wasikowska and Hiddleston is virtually nonexistent. The characters were supposed to be mad in love and elicit raw emotion from the audience. But all it got from me was wondering how far into the movie I was. Similarly, there were many scenes in the film that were expected to elicit emotion from the audience, but it ultimately did nothing. And trust me, I’m a sensitive person. Secondly, the film makes it sooooooo blatantly obvious that something’s up, especially with the siblings.
This brings us to my next point: secrets being spilt too early. Normally, the secrets are out around the ending of a film. However, in Crimson Peak, they’re all over the place. Although I appreciate the effort that Guillermo did in attempting to try out a different formula by letting the cat out of the bag throughout the film, it failed. Because of Guillermo’s take, it felt as if there too many mini climaxes throughout the film and not a single, grand debut of one. Furthermore, it made some characters seem unrealistic. For example, their responses to such secrets being spilt were waaaayyyy too late. Another problem with this formula is that the film felt like a bunch of scrambled puzzle pieces that didn’t really go together; some scenes would’ve been better had they been trimmed or placed elsewhere.
“Actually, I’d rather be Mary Shelley…she died a widow.”
Point 3 of bad plot development: the lack of proper development amongst character interactions. Not sure whether it was the camera cuts or the characters themselves, (more on the character side), but the interactions amongst some characters seemed to be very abrupt. They seemed to be lacking essential bridges that connected the character’s personality, (or communication with another), that lead to that specific action. Similarly, parts of the plot also seem to be abrupt. Because of this, the storyline did not flow as seamlessly as it could have. Bringing us back to that puzzle analogy, some pieces fit others out of nowhere.
Part 4 of bad plot development: it was way too obvious that something was up. Furthermore, the story overall was very cliché and predictable.
Part 5 of bad plot development: The story’s progression was a bit off. It was slow and dragged during unimportant sequences but was kinda fast during pivotal moments. In my opinion, the director should’ve kept more hidden from the audience until the time was right so the audience wouldn’t feel as if the movie was dragging.
Positive point? The bloody, beautiful (no pun intended) cinematography and set design. When I watched the film, all I could get was ‘holy whizz’ at the visual perfection.
Starting with the cinematography, the film is encapsulated in sepia hues of copper, bronze, and gold near the beginning of the story. The colors define the age of mechanics, steampunk, and elegance. But as the story progresses, in comes the repeated color of dark, shadowed hues with dashes of bright, crimson red. Add the shots of the vastness of both the mansion and the landscape and one can tell that Guillermo carefully shot each take with precision and definition. Hint-hint: blood and snow make a beautiful contrast.
The production design was amazing, grotesque, and gorgeous. It definitely encapsulated a gothic, Victorian atmosphere and feel with its paintings, carved staircases, seemingly endless hallways, etc. But best of all, the mansion was as black, eerie, and detailed as it should’ve been. I also enjoyed how the film overall wasn’t butchered with CGI. Only the ghosts were, but even so, they weren’t your typical ghosts; they had a unique look to them and used just the right amount of CGI to remain fearful.
Next positive aspect is the amount of violence included in the film. It wasn’t like Final Destination violence. It was gruesome and brutal, but kept to a minimum and straight-to-the-point. That’s what made it realistic.
Last positive is the carefully placed symbolism and crazy loads of foreshadow and creepy imagery throughout the film. It’s beautiful! And to an English major, my brain went crazy! One scene that stood out to me was the close-up of a moth being addicted to a flame. Let’s just say that it reflects our protagonist quite nicely.
On a closing note, the plot of Crimson Peak is very obvious and predictable. Save one or two charming scenes, the spectacular visuals overshadowed the plot. And ultimately, that’s what the gothic romance came out to be—visually stunning. Edith says that “the ghost is a metaphor for the past.” Although one cannot escape their actions, for they will forever be imprinted as a ghost. All I can say is that you’ll get it if you see it…
Running Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes
Final Verdict: B- (thank visuals)