#REVIEW: “CRIMSON PEAK”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is working towards becoming a writer in turn of the century New York. Despite claiming the affections of her childhood friend Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), she falls for mysterious visitor Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). After tragedy strikes, she marries Sharpe and accompanies him and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) back to their dilapidated mansion in England. But Edith suspects the siblings are hiding something, and all too quickly discovers the house may be hiding a few secrets of its own.
As you would expect from a Guillermo del Toro Film, Crimson Peak is a visually sumptuous delight. He works his canvas, expanding his visual palate and enriching each scene with spectacular detail. The vibrancy of the colours in some of these sequences is simply astounding, allowing del Toro’s unique and rather gory vision to truly flow through the entirety of the Film. Some of the ghostly designs suffer from not being nearly as creative as the Film around them, but the makeup is splendid nonetheless. The music is slightly eclectic by design, but it only assists in making each moment look artistic. This is easily one of 2015’s best-looking Films, and you would never guess it was filmed in and around Hamilton and the GTA.
But as you might also expect from a del Toro Film, the storyline and dialogue leave a lot to be desired. The Film is more of a Gothic Romance than it is a Horror Film (despite its macabre outer appearance), and even then seems to be more interested in homaging Films from the 1960s and 1970s than being its own original work (not to mention a few nods to Alfred Hitchcock). It takes nearly the entire first half for the characters to get to the house and the titular Crimson Peak, and then becomes increasingly less suspenseful as it begins to unpack itself and reveal the twisted secrets within. And by the time the finale begins, it feels like del Toro veers in an entirely different direction, betraying nearly everything that came before it.
Hiddleston does very well here playing Thomas as equal parts charming and mysterious. He has a great chemistry with Wasikowska, but she suffers under the weight of a constantly changing character. Hunnam fares even worse, unable to elevate his underused character beyond a glorified plot device. I really enjoyed TV vet Jim Beaver’s scenery chewing performance as Edith’s father Carter, but would be remiss to not admit that the Film belongs to Chastain. She remains an enigma until the very end, and is wonderfully-expressive even when she is not speaking. Some of her motivations become a bit too campy, but she is terrific nonetheless.
It is not all that structurally sound, but I enjoyed Crimson Peak. It looks and sounds incredible, but the storyline is serviceable at best. Chastain delivers another tremendous performance, easily overshadowing the rest of the cast and her character’s shortcomings. But the Film proves once again that del Toro is an idea man first and foremost, and a writer/director second. So proceed with caution, as Crimson Peak is not quite as advertised. But it may end up being one of the best looking Films you will see all year.
Universal Pictures Canada release CRIMSON PEAK Friday, October 16, 2015.