Crimson Peak is everything I’ve been hoping for from a horror movie in recent years. And yes, I’m calling it a horror movie, despite all the admonishments warning audiences to, “Think of it as a Gothic romance; if you see Crimson Peak expecting a horror movie, you’ll be disappointed!”
Crimson Peak is indeed a horror movie. It’s a wonderful horror movie that relies on characterization, plot, and scenery to capture the audience’s interest. It doesn’t rely on jump scares, torture porn, shaky cinema verite wannabe camera work, or any of the other annoying tropes so many horror movies have been coasting on for years. Like the horror films of old, it trusts the audience to be entertained even during quiet, reflective scenes.
There are, in fact, some extraordinarily brutal, visceral scenes, with plenty of gory detail. The entire point of the movie, however, is that when they happen the audience is shocked and taken by surprise, because the director doesn’t dedicate half the movie to them. Violence happens to characters, rather than characters existing solely to have violence done to them.
The main cast of Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain (a Gothic romance name if there ever was one), and Tom Hiddleson were beautifully complimented by the supporting roles from Jim Beaver and Charlie Hunnam. Burn Gorman, a pleasant surprise for Torchwood fans seeing this film, managed to bring quite a bit to the film despite the brevity of his role.
Edith, played by Wasikowska, is an aspiring writer who gets caught up in a whirlwind romance with the charismatic yet somewhat grim Thomas Sharpe, played by Hiddleston. She eventually finds herself in a dire situation at Sharpe’s mansion, with his jealous sister Lucille trying to constantly punish his new wife ever so subtly for invading her homestead.
If I had to make one criticism, it would be that Hunnam’s character, Dr. Alan McMichael, seemed to drop out of the movie for an extended period to the detriment of the plot; his role in the end would have felt more organic if he’d had more to do in the middle. It was quite disappointing, as one of his earlier scenes introduced a fascinating angle on the ghost story. It could have added quite a bit of interest and excitement if it had been built upon.
Overall, however, it was another masterfully done film by director Guillermo Del Toro.