Crimson Peak isn’t so much a ghost story as it is a “a story with ghosts in it”; a love story specifically. Set in a mansion far from it’s prime on a patch of land that hasn’t yielded profit in years, this gothic romance may feature more than a handful of ghostly apparitions but it isn’t the fright fest that most audience members may be expecting. That probably isn’t helped by the fact that pretty much every genre site I’ve seen has been talking about it as if it were a horror movie but whatever. Instead, we get a love story set against the backdrop a decaying mansion that just so happens to feature some of the more disturbing looking ghosts I’ve seen this year. Oh, and red mud. So much red mud.
The set and character design is, as to be expected given what del Toro has unleashed before, where Crimson Peak excels. The ghosts are as ghastly as any could hope, featuring as many pre-death injuries, missing body parts and leaking wounds that the movies 14A rating would allow. Instead of hiding them in the background and only letting us see them in quick cuts, the camera lingers on them so we can witness all the gory details. As always, del Toro makes movies for fans of monsters, not wanting his teams hard work to languish in the shadows under appreciated.
While the actual human characters of the movie do a great job falling in love, betraying each other, doing questionable….”things” to each other late at night and a variety of other sordid activities the real star of the movie is Allerdale Hall. Del Toro had a physical mansion constructed (well, sort of: on a soundstage but that still counts), and filled it to the brim with the level of absurd detail he has become known for. The house becomes as menacing a creature as any of the ghosts or morally absent humans that inhabit it, it’s walls bleeding red almost as a warning that is blindly ignored. Side note: I’m no lady in a poofy skirt from the 1800’s that’s just fallen head over bustle for Loki, but if my new husbands house was leaking MUD FROM THE WALLS THAT LOOKED LIKE BLOOD I might ask him to look at it. Maybe.
Because I can’t just jerk off about this movie (who am I kidding. I totally could.) I will say that subtlety is not a game Crimson Peaks knows the rules to. Or even knows exists. Instead, we get over the top performances from everyone except for Charley Hunam who just kind of seems to be there to be Charlie Hunam. I guess that’s cool because eye candy for the Hunam lovers, but he really could have been any male lead of similar age. Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain dominate the screen as brother and sister spook team Thomas and Lucille Sharpe, feeling every bit as menacing as the house they inhabit. I guess Hiddleston IS more than Loki.
I highly recommend this one, even if it’s just to check out del Toro’s eye for color and detail and of course, my new favorite menacing house of doom.