By: Daley Wilhelm
It’s the spooky scary season and Crimson Peak, director Guillermo del Toro‘s latest masterpiece, was at the very top of my scary movie to-watch list. While I was originally lured in by the gorgeous aesthetic, the promise of jump scares, and alluring British accents it turned out that the best part of this particular horror story was the actual story, something I’ve felt that horror movies have been skimping on for the last few Halloweens.
The story itself is centered around Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) an outspoken, but well-spoken writer and daughter of the industrialist Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver). Her writings are dark, filled with ghosts, which captures the attention of Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) who is seeking funding from her father for his family’s failed clay mines. Much to her father’s discontent, a romance blooms and he sets about to break it before he mysteriously and quite bloodily dies. Thus the mourning Edith becomes Lady Sharpe and returns to the ancestral Sharpe home with Thomas and his peculiar sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Alderdale Hall, known as Crimson Peak to locals, is in decay, perched on a hill made of seeping, oozing blood red clay, and filled with ghosts. These ghosts haunt the new Lady Sharpe, leading her to realize she is in the middle of a trap, and it is far too late to escape.
I mentioned that I liked the story. I was enthralled with the story. But it took a while for the story to start. All the ghastly goodness happens in England, but the first forty minutes are spent setting up the exposition in America. This might have helped with attaching one to the father, making his death all the more tragic, and establishing Dr. Alan McMicheal (Charlie Hunnam) a childhood friend of Edith’s. However, the trailer promised ghosts and I wanted them. The audience was well-rewarded for their long wait, because these specters were spectacular. They were an interesting mixture of gossamer and gore; all mutilated corpses with blood-red flesh dripping off the bone and floaty, ethereal mists.
When they appeared, there were no real cheap surprises or corner-of-the-eye glimpses. They appeared, stark in the moonlight, rattling as they tried to tell Edith something dreadfully important. Somehow, this shook me more than the times something popped out of the darkness. I didn’t know what to expect, which had me wincing into someone else’s arm. Being in a packed theatre heightened the experience, but I’m sure watching as something no longer human dragged itself across the floor toward Edith would have the same effect on someone alone in their room. If not scare them even more.
I came for the ghosts and stayed for the story. Del Toro managed to create a beautiful horror movie that also made you think. There were mysteries layered upon mysteries as the film went on. When I thought I knew what was going on, the rug was pulled out from underneath me. It wasn’t until the final climax scene that I truly knew the mystery of Crimson Peak, which is the way all good mysteries should be. Crimson Peak might not even be a proper horror film by today’s standards. It has a plot, a thick and rich plot, it has A-list actors, and it was very, very well-made. It was a movie that looked like a painting. From the dreary landscape to the intricate costumes to the lurid red of the clay, which oozed constantly from the walls, everything was delicately rendered as if by paintbrush.
Crimson Peak was immersive and horrifying, but perhaps not actually a horror movie because instead of thinking about the gruesome ghosts as I left the theatre, I was kept up at night by the story.