Edith Cushing finds herself in the midst of ghosts and secrets as she delves deep inside the mystery of the Sharpe family and their home, Allerdale Hall, otherwise known as Crimson Peak. Film review for Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak, starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, and Charlie Hunnam—now playing in theaters.
[Major Plot Spoilers]
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Ghosts are real. This I know.
There are things that tie them to a place very much like they do us. Some remain tethered to a patch of land, the time and date, the spilling of blood. A terrible crime. There are others, others that hold onto emotion, a drive, lose, revenge, or love. Those…they never go away.
“Beware of Crimson Peak!”
Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) was given this warning by her recently deceased mother when she was only ten years old. However, too much time passes between then and when she meets Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) for it to make much difference at all.
Edith is a young woman who is much different from the other young ladies around her. She doesn’t care for balls or gatherings. She’d much rather stay at home and work on her manuscript. Edith’s topic of choice is the supernatural, particularly ghosts.
She has no idea just how wrapped up in the supernatural she’s about to become when she meets Sir Thomas Sharpe.
Sir Thomas has come to the United States with his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), to gain investors for his new clay-drilling tool so that he’ll able to get his estate back on its feet. The Sharpe’s home sits on what used to be a thriving clay mine, but they have no means to successfully collect the clay quickly enough for it to turn a profit, thus leaving them broke and almost destitute.
Edith meets Thomas as he’s about to pitch his idea for her father and his fellow investors. What happens next sets her on a very dangerous path.
Crimson Peak is tag lined as a gothic romance, and it manifests it well in several aspects.
The setting for one, Allerdale Hall, is absolutely beautiful in its sweeping views and twisting corners. It’s dark, creepy, and cold. The floor oozes red clay and the ceiling is missing in the center portion of the house, allowing for the snow to fall through and blanket the entryway floor.
It’s grand and terrifying. Seemingly everything Edith has ever thought of brought to life.
Another of aspect of gothic romance in the film is shown in the choices of love interests that Edith is given. Thomas Sharpe, the mysterious stranger, intrigues Edith. While her life-long friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) doesn’t illicit strong feelings from her. Thomas is smooth and supportive of her writing. Alan is, too, but it seems to mean more coming from an absolute stranger than someone she’s known since childhood. Thomas is a strong sexual presence for Edith in a time when that was repressed in her level of society. He’s dangerous, and it draws her in and makes her act recklessly.
Then, of course, there are the ghosts. Crimson Peak is very much a ghost story, which is a major theme in the genre, but in this one, the ghosts aren’t haunting Edith out of revenge or malice. The first ghost Edith encounters is her own mother who warns her to avoid a certain place. This allows the viewer a glimpse into what is coming. The same is said for the ghosts that inhabit Allerdale Hall. None of them want to cause Edith harm. All of them are there for the specific purpose to warn her of the evil that lurks within the walls.
While there are many themes that mark a gothic romance, the move shifts into gothic horror and definitely into the gruesome at some points.
Sir Thomas and Lady Lucille Sharpe are very clever people, but the viewer can tell almost immediately that something isn’t right between them. Are they truly siblings? Do they really hold titles? What exactly are they lying about?
The mystery builds as the story progresses, and we find out, along with Edith, the devastating secrets that lie within Allerdale Hall. They’re not pretty. They’re full of madness and twisted love.
What I really appreciated most about this movie was the way in which Tom Hiddleston played Sir Thomas Sharpe. The emotions conveyed without even speaking are enough to show the audience that Thomas isn’t sold on what he and Lucille are engaging in, but he feels an obligation toward her–to protect her. It’s obvious that he’s been manipulated from a very early age and a lot of his allegiance to his sister seems almost obligatory at this point.
His love for Edith is unexpected to him, but with her I think he finally senses he has some freedom from his past, and he desperately wishes he could turn his back on everything and live a happy life with her. She’s literally the sunshine in his life. Edith’s character is constantly in yellows and golds while Thomas and Lucille are cloaked in dark velvets.
Guillermo del Toro showcases a breathtaking landscape, but I think at points he fails to bring to life the true romance of the storyline. The audience does see Thomas and Edith grow a little in love, but it isn’t until after they finally sleep together, that Thomas actually takes an active part in helping Edith try and escape the house and the terrible things that are already happening to her.
Edith finds herself getting sicker and sicker. From what, she can’t tell, but after some exploring, she eventually finds a gramophone and recordings from three separate women one of which gives Edith the answer she’s been after. Later, she encounters another clay red apparition, and Edith is pushed into finding out what is going on behind closed doors at night.
With the revelations out in the open, Edith realizes that her time is most definitely running out at Allerdale Hall, and Dr. McMichael’s impeccable timing saves her life as he shows up right as she finds herself in the snow that covers the entryway floor.
There are so many twists and turns in Crimson Peak, and I found it very enjoyable. I loved that the ghosts, while absolutely terrifying, weren’t the actual threat. I adored the idea of redemption through love, and that sometimes love can be a monstrous thing that bleeds and bends people into creations they don’t even recognize as themselves anymore.
There’s a love story here, and there are ghosts. There’s a sprawling gothic mansion miles from anywhere else and secrets around every corner. If you pay attention carefully, you can pick up on the hints given as the story progresses. It’s a well-done puzzle.
I could have done without some of the gorier scenes in the film, particularly a certain death scene early on. The film is bathed in red, though, and even if it’s covered up a majority of the time, it always seems to find it’s way back to the surface—just like the secrets within Allerdale Hall and it’s not so human inhabitants.