In an early scene of Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, Crimson Peak, the protagonist explains to a publisher that her book is not a ghost story but a story with ghosts in it. The ghosts are just, in fact, metaphors. It’s a very meta moment that sets the tone for the rest of the film. While Crimson Peak is certainly scary and will be compared to other horror films, it functions much better as a drama. With stunning visuals and actors who are game for anything accompanying a storyline that can be a tad melodramatic, it’s hard not to like what Crimson Peak has to offer.
Crimson Peak follows aspiring author Edith (played by Mia Wasikowska) as she is courted by a British heir (Tom Hiddleston). When she finally goes to live with him at his decrepit mansion in England, Edith begins to wonder if there is something mysterious within the house’s history that the heir and his sister (Jessica Chastain) are trying to hide.
Guillermo del Toro is a master of visual art. He knows how to make his creations not only visually unique but appealing as well. The trend continues with this film as the costumes pop and the “haunted” house at the center of the film is one of the most interesting you will ever see on the big screen.
While del Toro’s strength is very obvious, his Achilles’ heel isn’t so. Somewhere along the way, whether it be through poor plotting, weak character development, silly dialogue or a mixture of everything, del Toro’s films normally falter. Fortunately, that never really happens this time around. Sure the dialogue can be a bit silly and the twists and turns are not only melodramatic but also a bit predictable. However, all of the main characters are memorable. I would enjoy watching a spinoff of any of the three main characters (Charlie Hunnam’s Dr. McMichael comes close to being the fourth lead but his character is not interesting enough to make his inclusion work), which is something you can’t normally say for a film.
It also helps that all the actors know what type of movie they are in and perform admirably with the part they are asked to play. Mia Wasikowska certainly doesn’t have the showiest part in the film, but she brings some much-needed stability to the film’s core. Tom Hiddleston also oozes the necessary charisma to make the actions of his character and the characters responding to him seem realistic. Meanwhile, Jessica Chastain looks like she really enjoyed the rather drastic shifts in tone of her character, and her at-times bombastic acting fits right in with the film.
Crimson Peak is one of the few Guillermo del Toro films where the famed director brings everything together for a film that is both great and unique.
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