Review - Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak (2015), R, 119 minutes - There are a few directors whose films I would go see sight-unseen (not that that is very likely in this day and age), and while that list may vary here or there depending on where or when I may be asked (hypothetically of course I have never actually comprised such a list), I can assure you that Guillermo del Toro would be very close to the top of it.  I've been a big fan for quite a while, first becoming aware of his work through films like Blade II (2002) and Hellboy (2004), but developing a true appreciation for his talents in storytelling with 2006's Pan's Labyrinth.

Set in 1899, Crimson Peak is his latest completed project, and is another of his original stories.  This time around he weaves the tale of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring author and daughter of wealthy American businessman Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) who finds herself caught between the affections of childhood friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) and Baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who has traveled stateside in efforts to procure investment capital for his family's clay mining operation.  Her father is leery of the foreigner's intentions and agrees to invest in Thomas's project only if he breaks Edith's heart and returns home to England.  At dinner that night, Thomas very publicly renounces any feelings for Edith and proclaims that he and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) will be returning to England the following day.  Edith is devastated but awakes the next morning to a letter from Thomas explaining his actions.  In a quick series of events, Edith reunites with Thomas, learns that her father has passed away, and as a result having no one else to keep her in the states, agrees to marry Thomas.  Alan feels that there is something fishy about Carter's death and begins to investigate.  Meanwhile, Edith and Thomas are married and return to England and the dilapidated Sharpe family mansion Allerdale Hall with Lucille.  The siblings seem to act cold and distant towards her once they have returned home and Edith begins witnessing strange occurrences throughout the house.  Back stateside, Alan discovers that Carter's leeriness of the Sharpe's was well founded and that his death was the result of foul play.  As Edith tries to make herself at home in Allerdale Hall, she also discovers that things are not quite what they seem.

Crimson Peak is a story of forbidden love, betrayal, and the hauntings that manifest as a result of the dark deeds performed in order to keep a family's secrets.  In that regard, it may not break any new ground, but its strengths lie in how del Toro masterfully presents the story visually.  The sets are very elaborate and deliberate, every detail has its place and purpose, right down to the color of Edith's dress in contrast with her surroundings.    

While Crimson Peak has horror elements, it isn't quite as bloody or violent as I had anticipated after seeing the trailer.  We learn that a lot of the seemingly bloody imagery is in actuality, red clay from the Sharpe estate.  There is a violent stabbing towards the end of the film, which seems to be a regular occurrence in del Toro's original works.  Beyond that, the film relies on the combination of some cool practical effects with minimal visual effects additions in order to portray the descent of Edith's quality of life after arriving at Allerdale Hall.    

Any fan of Guillermo del Toro's work will appreciate and enjoy Crimson Peak.  It is a well made, well acted film that is creepy with a couple splashes of violence.  Just enough to make an impact, but not enough to be considered as glorifying.  It has already been out for a few weeks now so if you are interested and haven't yet seen it, you may need to wait for the digital/home video release.  I'm pretty sure I'll be adding this one to my collection as I have del Toro's other films.


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