Crimson Peak Review
When the Crimson Peak trailers were first released, I thought there was no way I would ever be able to watch it. I don’t do scary evil ghost movies (nothing creeps me out more). But then again, the clear callback to Gothic Romance was also stamped all over Guillermo Del Toro’s period piece, and Gothic Romance just happens to be one of my favorite genres in literature and film.
The sweeping and dark love stories, hidden secrets within the walls of a large, sometimes decaying gothic mansion, and, of course, the typical Byronic Hero lurking in the shadows. What’s not to love? With some trepidation, and reassurance Crimson Peak was more Gothic Romance than full on horror, I decided to give Crimson Peak a chance. I’m glad I did.
Edith Cushing, our Gothic female heroine, describes Crimson Peak best in explaining her own manuscript to a publisher: It isn’t a ghost story, but a story with a ghost in it. It’s more metaphorical than anything else. Similarly, Crimson Peak is not a horror (a pity the marketing revealed it as such), but rather a Gothic Victorian Romance with some horror thrown into the story. The ghosts are really the ghosts of the characters’ pasts.
Edith, like many Gothic protagonists, suffers a tragedy as a child when her mother dies. Soon after her mother’s death, she sees her first ghost when her mother appears to Edith and warns her about “Crimson Peak.” I’m not going to lie; this part did give me the chills…
But what did this cryptic warning actually mean? By the time Edith figures this out, it was already too late. Meanwhile, Edith grows up and is attempting to become a successful novelist; she doesn’t exactly fit into the norm of Victorian (on the verge of Edwardian) Society and is not particularly social. Still, she’s close to her father (played by Supernatural’s Jim Beaver) and there’s a handsome and kind, swoon-worthy doctor (Charlie Hunnam) who has a thing for her.
Then a mysterious brother and sister, Thomas and Lucille Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain), come into town and turn Edith’s life upside down. It’s clear from the start that the two are not to be trusted, but Edith can’t help falling for the charming Thomas who seems to understand her and her work. The two have a soul connection, something Lucille doesn’t seem to be thrilled about either. Thomas was supposed to throw his attentions elsewhere after all.
Accepting his hand in marriage after a terrible tragedy, Edith moves away to the Sharpe estate in England, a decaying mansion full of ghosts and dark secrets. Indeed, the ghosts, while still terrifying and immensely grotesque in a few scenes, work to warn Edith of the evil that surrounds her. She must uncover the truth as she begins to realize her life is in jeopardy, a truth she fully begins to comprehend when she learns the estate’s nickname: Crimson Peak. In the meantime, Dr. Alan McMichael (Hunnam) who still loves Edith does some digging of his own, and he will do anything to save her.
Crimson Peak will not be for everyone. For viewers wanting an evil horror story like The Ring, this is not that film. But for those of us who appreciate Gothic Romances like Jane Eyre and Rebecca, this is one passionate period drama you won’t want to miss, that is if you can handle a few sequences of intense violence.
Like everything Del Toro does, there’s a beautiful artistry in his work, however, he also has a thing for gore. While not incessant throughout the movie, Crimson Peak does have some scenes where I had to close my eyes. I have a very difficult time with strong violence and there were definitely some moments here that were tough to watch, particularly a gruesome death and then during the climax of the film. If you’re anything like me and still want to see this, then just turn your head. I did for the most part.
I at least appreciated that Del Toro didn’t make the violence a constant presence. These moments were saved for only important parts of the story. Nevertheless, I still strongly believe that this level of grotesque gore was completely unnecessary and could have been toned down without affecting the overall story. Suspense is much more interesting than blood.
Despite these key scenes of gore, Crimson Peak really is just a beautiful period romance. The Byronic love story between Thomas and Edith is breathtaking (particularly the ending that I won’t spoil) and I even felt sorry for Thomas and his lot in life. There’s certainly a redemptive quality to his character I also appreciated. Tom Hiddleston truly shone in this darkly romantic role.
Then there is Dr. Alan played by Charlie Hunnam. Emanating a similar goodness he portrayed in Nicholas Nickleby, Hunnam became a romantic hero we could completely root for. He never gives up on Edith and endures walking hours in a snow storm to try and rescue her from a villainous plot. I can’t say enough good things about Hunnam other than that he needs to play more roles like this pronto!
Gushing for the period drama men aside, the women were also fantastic here. Mia Wasikowska excels in the Gothic Romance as we already saw in Jane Eyre while Jessica Chastain plays the perfect psychopath. Overall, aside from the violence, Crimson Peak is a wonderful homage to the Gothic genre and I say it is worth seeing for the gorgeous costumes, the performances, the artistry, and the strong romantic elements. This is one Gothic, almost fairy tale-like love story, I can see again and again (though some parts will definitely be getting my FF button).
Content Note: This is Rated R for a scene of sexuality, adult themes, and a few scenes of strong violence.
Have you seen Crimson Peak? Are you still planning on watching this Gothic Romance? Sound off in the comments…
Photos: Universal Pictures/ Legendary
“You had me at hello.”
“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.
I have loved none but you.”Want to help us spread the popularity of Romance in Entertainment? Share this article with your friends!