Crimson Peak (2015) Review

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“It’s not a ghost story, it’s a story with ghosts in it.”

In order to allow you to properly adjust your critic-perspective scales, let me start by saying that I love Guillermo Del Toro. Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone are tremendous films, full of beauty, wonder, horror, and that great film intangible – depth. His surreal, fable-like feature debut Cronos is almost on the level of those later two masterpieces. I love both Hellboys, and yes, Blade 2, too. I even love Pacific Rim. While his Spanish language features have been seen as his major film work and his Hollywood productions his confections, Crimson Peak promised to merge the two at last and propel Del Toro to new heights. Did it succeed?

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Sort of, but its not without it’s problems. This side of Sicario, Crimson Peak is easily the most visually stunning film I’ve seen in 2015, and probably one of the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen. The actors are all outstanding, particularly Tom Hiddleston as Thomas Sharpe.  I love the Gothic moods – it feels like Del Toro took everything from Poe to the Brontes, threw in some AIP Price pictures and Hammer films as seasoning, and stewed up his own Gothic feast.  This is, in all ways, a sumptuous film, a deliciously lurid dark fairy tale.  Sometimes, though, despite each ingredient being delicious, if you add too many and aren’t careful, you end up with a bit of a mess.

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My problems with Crimson Peak are primarily the distinct lack of suspense and scares, the pacing, and some of the logic. Del Toro has said that this is a Gothic romance and not a horror film so I guess I’ll have to let the lack of frights go, but I can’t help but wish that with so many cool looking ghosts, a few of them were there to give up the tingles and jumps. Pacing-wise, while the film mostly had a nice propulsive rhythm, there were also a few scenes where the momentum ground to a halt. Wia Wasikowska’s Edith Cushing is banally likable, but it’s hard not to shake the feeling that rather than naive, she’s just kind of dumb. She’s warned about practically everything from the very start, and yet, forges ahead into disaster. It’s hard to feel compassion and root for someone that acts selfishly and stupidly so consistently.  The film’s central mystery and surprise is one that is obvious to the audience, and yet everyone in the film world is completely oblivious.  Despite being a film primarily about passion, there’s a icy coldness that pervades every frame.  It’s hard to understand who is playing at love, and who really is in love.

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It could be that, upon subsequent viewings, my opinion will improve, but for now, I like Crimson Peak, but I can’t say that I love it – it’s too cold and it plays too loose with logic to love. The characters feel too much like those shiny bits of machinery and clockwork that Del Toro is so fascinated by. It was lovely to see an old fashioned Gothic on the big screen again, and as I said before, Del Toro’s visuals are truly remarkable.

So: see Crimson Peak for the visuals, the mood, and the startling, explosive violence – it’s certainly worth seeing for those reasons alone – it’s just frustrating to see a film that shoots for greatness, yet misses the mark in a number of puzzling ways.

7/10

17 thoughts on “Crimson Peak (2015) Review

  1. I agree with this a little bit yaknow!
    I loved the visuals massively, Del Toro is one of my favourite directors, but there was times when the story was a little off. It did get me on the jumps though but maybe that’s cause I don’t watch much new scary stuff.
    Can’t decide if I like Wia at all in this, like you said she does just come across as very dumb at times.
    Good little review this though! 🙂

    1. Thanks! Yeah, it was definitely disappointing. Del Toro is capable of greatness, and he reaches for it here, it just missed the mark. It certainly didn’t have the depth of symbolism or emotion that The Devil’s Backbone did.

    1. I thought I’d be okay with the lack of scares. I was not as okay with it as I thought I’d be. I feel like the ghosts should be scary, they’re just shot and edited in a way that doesn’t let them be.

  2. Spot on review. I absolutely loved the setting and the visuals, and Tom Hiddleston was great, but the rest felt like a letdown especially story-wise. I’m also personally not a fan of Mia Wasikowska at all, which didn’t help my feelings on the film in general.
    I don’t even really need to say much more, because you described exactly how I felt when it was over. This movie’s okay, but it’s not great.

  3. I was fine with the ghosts being presented as warnings rather than scares, since it was clear from early on that this was a Bluebeard sort of thing. But I agree about the emotional coldness. For all of Hiddles’ soulful tragedy, I didn’t feel it, and was certainly left wanting in that regard. I think Jim Beaver did the best job of actually having emotion. The violence of the end, though…. Delightful.

    1. I don’t mind the warning thing, but some of those scenes could have been terrifying. I’m just not sure that they weren’t supposed to be. In the scene where the ghost that looks like something straight out of Hellraiser is crawling after our heroine, she seems scared, but we’re not. It’s shot in such a way that it just doesn’t feel like there’s any urgency or real danger.
      You’re right about Jim Beaver. He was fantastic.

  4. Yass i totally agree, there were some things i wanted answers to as well, like the point of making the blood-red bricks and trying to sell them. I was thinking i missed a few things and hoped to catch up on it but i ultimately felt wanting more. The story felt lackluster. Visuals and acting were great but everything else fell flat. Great review

  5. Finally another critic I can relate to. This movie is really mostly eyecandy and falls apart pretty fast when one considers the characters and overall plot of the movie. I was expecting a much stronger supernatural element in the story and in the end I felt really unsatisfied with the overall experience. Great review.

  6. Great review! You voiced my feelings perfectly. I love Guillermo Del Toro too and was really excited by this film. However, while I was impressed by the cinematography, I was disappointed in the story. I like gothic tales like Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and like you, was excited to see a gothic tale on the big screen again, but… This had elements of both horror and the gothic romance but didn’t fully develop either. I could have done with less of the CGI ghosts and more of the character development in the end. But I did love Tom Hiddleston. Wouldn’t mind seeing him in more of these roles.

  7. I totally agree with everything you said. This is one of the few times in my life when I feel like a film would have benefited from being a half hour LONGER, so that the plot could have been developed just a little more. I just wasn’t quite getting the love story element. From the beginning it just felt wrong – also, the scene where they lift that entire slab of dialogue from Jane Eyre… what was that about?
    Visually though, it was a stunning film. I loved that and would happily watch it again just for that element.

    1. Just like you, I’ll probably watch it again just for the visuals. I, too, was really confused about the love story. I feel like structurally the film was flawed. There’s no tension, because Del Toro lets us see that the brother and sister are up to no good, and the love rings false because of it, I think – too much foreshadowing, too much sinister prancing about early on by the two of them, too many warnings from everyone. It feels like the script was in need of another rewrite to iron out the issues.

  8. I agree with your review but I will add that it does improve with multiple viewings. There’s a lot going on in facial expressions and intonation. I do think Edith is a bit blah. I love Lucille even though she is…different, lol. She brings a lot to the movie and winds up as an even more tragic figure than Edith.
    There were a few period details that made me cringe because they were off a bit. Like Edith’s complaints that they don’t take her seriously as a writer (particularly of ghost stories) because she’s a woman. There were quite a few women writing ghost stories at that time, most of which had not even a hint of a love story in them. Although I kind of suspect that that is Del Toro’s commentary on stories in the present day.

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