Review: “Crimson Peak”
“Crimson Peak” is not a horror film. With the time of year, however, I can see why Legendary and Universal Pictures would want to bill it as such—but more on that later in the review. First let me say that Guillermo Del Toro has cemented himself—if he hadn’t already—as one of the greatest storytellers and directors of this generation. His unique visual style, combined with excellent stories and tremendous acting talent, has meant every movie he’s made has been cinematic gold, even those that don’t do well at the box office.
Because the marketing campaign had this labeled as a horror film, I had no intention of seeing it. I’m not a fan of horror films, not because I don’t like being scared but because they tend to fall into a mess of formulas, tropes (usually bad ones), and jump scares. I can almost always see what is coming long before it ever happens. Thankfully, I was convinced to see it, and Del Toro has been taking to media, social and regular, making statements that it was not a horror film but a gothic romance.
It is certainly a romance, a twisted romance one but a romance story nonetheless. It has a love triangle: between the naive young woman with dreams larger than what would fit the role of a woman from 1901, the quiet well-meaning suitor, and the mysterious foreign visitor that captures everyone’s attention. Mystery abounds, and you will find yourself questioning much of what is happening on screen, who’s doing what to whom, and what people’s true motivations are—so much so that you won’t even realize that two hours have passed when the movie lets out. While there are a few story holes and questionable plot devices, none of them really break your immersion in this carefully crafted world.
The acting, however, does an excellent job of distracting you for all of the story’s shortcomings. Mia Wasikowska continues to improve from her amazing performance in the live action “Alice In Wonderland.” Other than “War Horse,” I’d never seen Tom Hiddleston outside his role as Loki and worried I may not have been able to separate the two; it was not a problem at all. Hiddleston is a talented actor and shines again here. Jessica Chastain continues to be a force in films, and she absolutely nails this role; if I hadn’t known she was in the movie, I would have thought this was someone completely different. She could easily get a nomination for a “Best Supporting Actress” award in all the major award shows. Even Charlie Hunnam stepped up for this and gave a great performance.
Inclusivity is where the movie starts to fall off. The only people of color that we see in the entire movie are two maids for about 20 seconds. While some may argue “historical accuracy,” this isn’t a historical film. It’s a fiction written about fictitious events that did not occur in 1901 New York and England. The movie did have plenty of women, though. Despite his popularity and star power, Tom Hiddleston was not the top credit on the film; Mia Wasikowska was, and the story revolved more around the two main women in the film. This movie also manages to pass the Bechdel-Wallace test.
As for its overall awesomeness, the movie doesn’t disappoint here, either. While it isn’t a horror movie, it still does an excellent job at building tension and having scary moments without falling into common horror tropes. The cinematography and set design was gorgeous, and you were kept guessing the entire film as to what was going to happen next.
“Crimson Peak” is not a horror film. It is a gothic romance: dark, tense, full of mystery. It’s a movie that you can take your date to if they aren’t too keen on horror films. Guillermo Del Toro has crafted an excellent story with beautiful, haunting visuals and a powerful cast who play well written and complete characters. This is a must-see movie this Halloween season.