Sunday, October 18, 2015

Crimson Peak

Year: 2015
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver

Plot: After a family tragedy, an aspiring writer marries an aristocrat and moves into his crumbling mansion, Allerdale Hall. Soon she discovers her new husband and his sister may be hiding a sinister secret, as there are ghosts in the house that won't leave her alone.

Review: I'm currently following Guillermo del Toro's horror TV show The Strain in its first season. Awesome stuff. While that one is straightforward horror, his latest film Crimson Peak is slightly different.

Crimson Peak, set in early 20th century, centers on Edith Cushing, a young aspiring writer who lost her mother to disease when she was ten years old and now lives with her father, a builder. One day she meets Sir Thomas Sharpe from England, who takes interest in her and her writings, and they subsequently fall for each other. Her father disapproves of Thomas and his more dubious looking sister Lucille, but then he suddenly dies and Edith swiftly marries Thomas and moves into the Sharpe's crumbling home, Allerdale Hall. Shortly after, Edith encounters dead spirits in the house, and begins to suspect that her new husband and his sister aren't what they seem to be.

If you're looking for a visually beautiful film this year, there isn't one more lovely than Crimson Peak (except maybe Mad Max: Fury Road). Cinematography, set design and costume design are all top notch. The set for Allerdale Hall is simply awesome, from the wide open field between the house and its gate, to the eerie mansion that looks gorgeous despite being dilapidated and bearing a huge hole in the roof. It's a set that's begging for an Oscar next year. The visual effects depicting the ghosts are cool too, with long time del Toro collaborator Doug Jones chipping in again as the spirits Edith runs into. The effects show them as bloody skeletons, and they can be quite disarming.

As for the cast, Mia Wasikowska is simply perfect in the role of Edith. Word has it that she is replacing Emma Stone, and thank goodness for that (I can't picture Stone in this role honestly). Wasikowska is a perfect fit for the era in this film, looking really lovely in every frame, and she brings across Edith's enthusiasm, youth and eventual fear very well. Jessica Chastain is also great as Lucille, a character very far removed from her recent astronaut role in The Martian. Chastain is menacing and cold here, a person who is equally disturbing as the spirits in the house. Tom Hiddleston, like Wasikowska, is perfect for the era, and plays the nicer Sharpe sibling Thomas with much charm and gusto. Charlie Hunnam, last seen in del Toro's Pacific Rim, acquits himself well as Edith's childhood friend Alan, but doesn't get much screen time except at the beginning and end of the film. Rounding up the cast is Supernatural's Jim Beaver as Edith's father, and is also a perfect fit for the role.

Now while casting and acting are all solid here, it is the script that is slightly flawed. The story itself isn't a problem, but the dialogue sinks itself into unnecessary melodrama many times. The pacing is also a bit off in the middle third of the film, and while the ghosts are well depicted, I wanted to see more of them. But thankfully del Toro sort of makes up for this with a blood drenched climax, so if you like violence you're in for a treat.

Overall, Crimson Peak is a visual marvel and a solid watch, even though it's flawed here and there. Guillermo del Toro may have not recaptured the brilliance of his magnum opus, Pan's Labyrinth here but it isn't for lack of trying. (7/10) 

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