Crimson Peak, Guillermo Del Toro’s latest gothic horror film, looks beautiful. The costumes, the set decoration, the cinematography and editing are all very impressive. Everything is put together in such a pretty package. However, when you strip away all of those elements, you’re left with nothing particularly noteworthy. A convoluted, uninteresting story played out by four completely static characters speaking soap-opera quality dialogue.
Mia Wasikowska plays Edith Cushing, a naive young woman oozing with white privilege who aspires to be a respected female author in a time when it was unseemly for a lady to do so. You’d expect Edith to be a strong protagonist given her brazen defiance of the status quo, but unfortunately she collapses in tears at the sight of most curveballs. She falls in love with an ambitious British inventor Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddelston) who takes her to live with him and his cold sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain) at some creepy mansion in the middle of Cumberbatch or Cumberland or some fucking place in the English countryside. Ghosts start to appear and threaten to unravel a mystery for Edith. Also riding through this world, all alone, once again, is Charlie Hunnam sans facial hair. He plays a nice young doctor that is childhood friends with Edith.
The acting is really disappointing given the movie’ star power, and Mia Wasikowska is more annoying than anything else in the leading role. Charlie Hunnam isn’t given much to do and Jessica Chastain, shocking as it is, completely phones in her performance. The only decent performance in the film belongs to Tom Hiddleston, and it’s more than a little sad to see him struggle so hard to bring such a hollow character to life.
If you’re expecting a scary movie, you’ll be sorely disappointed. While certainly creepy at times, Del Toro seems to be interested in making the ghosts appear more sympathetic than spooky. I admire this very human approach, and it makes you think Crimson Peak might actually be about something at first glance. Maybe it’s about the infinite possibilities of life in contrast with the non-existent options of death, or maybe it’s about how as humans we are obsessed with the paranormal because it gives us hope that it all doesn’t fade to black when we expire. One of the reasons I loved Pan’s Labyrinth was because it used supernatural elements to illustrate how the worst and scariest evil is always human. Unfortunately, Crimson Peak is mostly about how striking the color red is on top of gloomy shades of grey and black. Grade: C+