Director Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim) is known for his awe-inspiring visual spectacles. Unfortunately, his newest film Crimson Peak takes his signature boundary-pushing CGI and deposits it in an underwhelming ghost story. A variation of the Bluebeard fairy tale, the script by Del Toro and regular collaborator Matthew Robbins stars Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing, a young woman who falls for the mysterious, penniless Baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) much to the dismay of her father Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) and the Baronet’s sister, Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain).
After tragedy strikes her family, Edith quickly marries Thomas and moves across the pond to his cold, dilapidated mansion Allerdale Hall which sits on a red clay deposit that was once the source of the family’s wealth. Uneasy in her new home she witnesses ghastly apparitions and fears for her safety, as well as her sanity. Her new husband shows little interest in her, opting to spend his time tending to his life’s work, a drilling machine that will revitalize his clay mines and bring prosperity back to his lands.
The effects aren’t the only visually stimulating aspect of the film; production designer Thomas E. Sanders’ approach to the Gothic period is commendable. There is so much detail in the sets, the costumes – really the production as a whole. It’s a shame the same level of authenticity, and attention wasn’t paid to the story or cast.
While the cast, which also includes Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) as an optometrist turned detective, is incredible on paper, they under perform. Granted, their characters are two dimensional at best, but instead of having fun with the ridiculous archetypes they play, the seriousness of the cast drains any possible campy energy. Alternatively, the graphics embrace the over-dramatic, meaning the dead are far more interesting than the living. A minor exemption is Wasikowska, who manages to captivate at the beginning of the film, but becomes the source of so many eye rolls as the story progresses.
Aside from a lack of imagination in the script the worst part of the film is that it fails to scare – or even make you jump (although the eerie score by Fernando Velázquez attempts to). There’s nothing quite like the collective cries of a horror movie audience as a jump scare cue succeeds. Unfortunately for Crimson Peak, the wasn’t a single gasp in the packed theatre I sat in. If you’re looking for a scare in the theatres, this is not the right film. But, if you’re just a simple Hiddlestoner (because every celebrity fan base needs a name) then book your ticket now, there is some mild nudity courtesy of the British heartthrob.
Reviewed by Vithiya Murugadas.