Monthly Archives: November 2015

MOVIES: Crimson Peak

crimsonpeakposterDirector: Guillermo Del Toro
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston
Verdict: The best gothic since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein… dare I say it, the best since Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Rebecca Eyre in Blackbeard’s Red Death House of Usher. With Tom Hiddleston.

If you’re not already tripping over yourself to see this film after that, you’re not the target audience.

Despite the marketing – and Guillermo Del Toro’s worthy gore-drenched filmography – this is not a horror film. It’s a gruesome, bloody, romantic Gothic, in the style of Walpole or The Woman in White, made fragrant, delicious and sensuous by that dank, fetid look everyone remember from Pan’s Labyrinth.

Anyone who reads gothic romances – a misnomer, really, since romances have happy endings, and in a gothic no one gets out unscathed – anyone who reads gothic romances knows there’s a basic ‘Beauty and the Beast’ narrative. Naïve heroine, mysterious yet darkly attractive gentleman, eerie house in the middle of nowhere. Suspicions mount of foul play. Shenanigans (supernatural or not) and creepy romance ensue. People die horribly.

Crimson Peak doesn’t so much update this trope as… well, drench it in blood, splash it with perfume, and smash it out of the park.

Mia Wasikowska has made the gothic ingénue her own, what with Alice In Wonderland, Jane Eyre and now Crimson Peak. The camera loves her, and she brings a believable courage to what could have been a weak, too-stupid-to-live heroine. Jessica Chastain is chilly and haughty and wonderful as the I-Wonder-If-She’s-Evil Sister. And Tom Hiddleston’s Sir Thomas Sharp is tortured and beautiful and… well, need I say more?

Surprises (as opposed to shocks) are not this genre’s speciality. So it won’t shock you to learn that {highlight this to reveal} the hero is a nutter from the start and so is his sister and they’re probably sleeping together and EVERYONE HAS BEEN MURDERRRRED. You know that part in Event Horizon, when you realise that not only is Sam Neill a blood-crazed lunatic, but he has been from the very beginning only you didn’t notice?? That.

One rarely finds a movie as lovingly made, and as visually beautiful. The haunted mansion is a dank, crumbling, windswept House of Usher, creaking and dripping with mould. The contrivance that gradually soaks the ground in ‘blood’ throughout the movie, giving the place its name – Crimson Peak – is brilliant.

But it isn’t only visuals that impress. You can smell this film, from the spectacularly rotting house to the vats of blood (yeah, you have to be there) to the dark, intoxicating romance-hero cologne that you just know Mr. Hiddleston is wearing.

I haven’t seen a movie like this since Francis Ford Coppola gave us Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That film was widely ridiculed at the time – why? probably because of the fashionable A-list cast – but decades later, it stands up, as the superb creature of dark romance and luminous gothic beauty it is.

May Crimson Peak do the same.