Rating out of 5:
Combine Jane Eyre, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and Bluebeard’s Castle, then throw in the production aesthetic of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) and you’ll have a fairly good picture of Guillermo del Toro’s most recent horror feature, “Crimson Peak.”
The film is a love letter of sorts to all things Victorian Gothic with stunning costumes (are you listening, Academy Awards?) and gorgeously morbid set design. When budding novelist Edith (Mia Wasikowska, who indeed played Jane in 2011’s Jane Eyre) follows her mysterious and bankrupt new husband (an underutilized Tom Hiddleston) to his ancestral home in Cumberland, she discovers neither he nor his reclusive sister (Jessica Chastain at her eeriest if not quite best) are what they seem…. Oh, and Edith can see ghosts.
Restive spirits, family tragedy, and murderous scheming ensue. “Crimson Peak” pulls out nearly all the traditional gothic horror stops, but never quite arrives at blood-chilling. Both director and cast had the potential for excellence and performed credibly, though within the confines of a narrative not overly concerned with character development. A little more subtly in scripting or an extra plot twist or two could have gone a long way towards creating a satisfying conclusion. I found myself expecting a level of story-telling revelation slightly beyond what the movie ultimately delivered.
A few lines stand out such as Edith’s pithy quip, when compared with Jane Austen’s spinsterhood, “I’d rather be Mary Shelley—she died a widow,” and the camera work is exquisite and sensual. I won’t deny I felt vaguely cheated when the decaying titular mansion failed to sink into the clay mines at its foundations a la Poe, but on the whole, del Toro’s latest succeeds as a visually opulent and thoroughly respectable horror flick.
– Brigid Ehrmantraut ‘18