********* 8 out of 10 *********
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Actors: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam
Movies of the horror genre turn out usually to be the best return generating films for studios. The main reason behind that is the low production budgets set aside for these flicks. Be it the ones with supernatural entities or deranged killers, horror films are largely made to thrill the audience with spooks, gore, screams, and all sorts of things that can rattle you in the darkness of the cinema hall, and get your heart beating really fast. The studios strip such movies of big stars, extravagant sets, and many times, even trim the plots. But now and then, we get someone ambitious enough to build a grander horror flick. We had Gregory Peck star in the 1976 classic Omen; we had Scream revitalise slasher flicks in 1996 by casting well-known actors; we saw $100 million budget being assigned to 2000’s What Lies Beneath; we had Brad Pitt make zombies a worldwide problem in 2013’s World War Z. Now in 2015, we get one of the top directors in Guillermo del Toro bringing together an exciting bunch of talented actors to create one of the most lavish looking horror films of the past decade. While the chills and spooks in the film may not be enough to satiate the hardcore horror fans, Crimson Peak is still a cinematic joy to watch for anyone who loves Hollywood movies.
Crimson Peak follows the life of young Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) who lives with her father (Jim Beaver), a rich self-made industrialist. Edith aspires to be a writer and is working on her first manuscript. While she is pushing hard to get her story published, she has a chance encounter with Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) of England who has come to the USA along with his sister (Jessica Chastain) to raise funding for his invention. Edith is charmed by Thomas Sharpe much to the displeasure of Edith’s friend, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam). What begins as more of a romantic tale, is soon to lead us to Crimson Peak, a sinister looking huge mansion which has more than a century old history and along with it, dark secrets that could endanger the life of young Edith. Get ready to be spooked!
My first advice to you is avoid reading any bit of the plot of Crimson Peak. I have revealed the bare minimum above, and digging any deeper into the story before watching the movie is bound to ruin the mystery which the story carries. The story, written by Guillermo del Toro along with Matthew Robbins, appears less interesting when looked at in hindsight. Its real charm however lies in not knowing the dark secrets which are to be revealed, and that is how you can put yourself in the boots of Edith Cushing who is the narrator of the story.
Guillermo del Toro uses the mystery of his story along with lavish sets and a haunting background score to create a movie that entwines the audience into it. The sets created to give the movie a period look are absolutely amazing, with the production design by Thomas Sanders, followed by the art direction, set decoration and costume design, each worthy enough to bag Oscar nominations. The movie’s budget stands at $55 million, but a look at the lavishness of the sets would give the impression that three times the amount has been used! Guillermo del Toro then uses the hidden mysteries in the story, which bob their heads here and there to throw some clues, to create a chilliness that a horror movie would carry. The ghosts and other supernatural beings are not really the hero of the film, which could be a disappointment for some that are looking for creepy haunting tales. Instead, think of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining where the scares came from not knowing what would happen next. Just like The Shining, the horrors of Crimson Peak lie within its own human characters, which someone as skilled as Guillermo del Toro can bring out to the surface masterfully.
The movie cast has an exciting young group of talented actors which further add to the grandeur of this horror tale. Mia Wasikowska is the perfect narrator, the ingénue who looks she may not reach the end but who then surprises with her grit and strength, something akin to what she played in Alice in Wonderland. The two English actors – Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam – are absolutely amazing, and easy on the eyes, showing quite a range of their acting prowess as the movie’s mood itself changes. But the ladies steal a march in this film, first with Mia Wasikowska and then the brilliant Jessica Chastain, who has a contrasting personality to Wasikowska’s character. Brimming with confidence which has a haunting touch to it, Chastain’s character grows gradually as the movie rolls on, ultimately becoming one of its biggest highlights. Along side this younger cast, the more seasoned Jim Beaver is impressive and imposing in the role of Edith Cushing’s father.
With Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro gives us a cinematic experience that isn’t so easily found in the horror genre. A movie which will give you the chills, and at the same time make you feel in awe. The grandiose sets, the richness of the dialogues, and the fantastic set of actors, allow Crimson Peak to stand out from its poorer cousins in this genre that have flooded the theatres. It might be a while before we get to see another Crimson Peak emerge in the theatres, so better catch this one soon!