By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
This year, Fantastic Fest offered its attendees two secret screenings. The first one took place on Friday evening with audiences excitedly anticipating their surprise. As it turned out, the film was Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak and Del Toro and Tim League took the stage to introduce the film. Del Toro made it a point to emphasize that his film is more gothic romance than horror. This description really intrigued me as the movie began to play. After watching the film, I found the aesthetics absolutely gorgeous and enchanting. The horror in the film works very well and delivers chills and thrills. The romance, which Del Toro hoped to emphasize, though, is where the movie has its issues.
Mia Wasikowska stars as Edith Cushing a young American author in the 19th century who falls in love with Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), an Englishman in town for business. After a quick courtship and marriage, Sharpe wisks Edith off to England to live with him and his sister Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain) in their ancient family home. Edith, a woman who has already had contact from beyond discovers that the Sharpe siblings have been hiding a dark and frightening history. As she begins to uncover these mysteries, Edith starts to suspect Thomas’ intentions may not be all that honorable.
Written by Del Toro and Matthew Robbins and directed by Del Toro, really is an incredible looking film. The cinematography by Dan Laustsen, the production design by Thomas E. Sanders, the art direction by Brandt Gordon, and the beautiful costumes by Kate Hawley all contribute to lavish and extraordinary look of the film. The aesthetics create the perfect settings for this period gothic horror film and the visual effects and sound also deliver when it comes to delivering chills and frights. Del Toro really is a master when it comes making his movies look like remarkable works of art, and his work and the work of his crew on this film has never been better.
The screenplay by Del Toro and Robbins, however, leaves more to be desired. The overall mystery and thriller aspects of the story work well, leaving the audience in anticipation of any major reveals. Del Toro works the horror beats effectively by building the tension, suspense, and spook factor beautifully. Ultimately I found the big reveal at the end a tad disappointing and uninspired. The romance that develops between Sharpe and Cushing starts off wonderfully, but then feels forced when it really counts.
Wasikowska, Hiddleston, and Chastain deliver great performances, though the character development is a bit lacking sometimes. The overall film is quite an experience, but mainly because of Del Toro’s exceptional work in delivering a movie which plays with the audience’s senses in genuinely creepy ways. Despite its problems, I still highly recommend Crimson Peak for fans of gothic style horror. The artistry of the film’s look is undeniable and should be celebrated.