Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”)
Written by: Guillermo del Toro (“Pacific Rim”) and Matthew Robbins (“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”)
In the opening scene of director Guillermo del Toro’s new film “Crimson Peak,” a ghost of the mother of our main character gives the warning: “Beware of Crimson Peak.” With a dull story, bland horror and clunky imagery, I couldn’t agree more, unscary ghost-lady.
After a young woman named Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is swept off her feet by visiting a Englishman named Thomas (Tom Hiddleston), she decides to follow him to his new home after facing a family tragedy. Accompanied by his mysterious sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), Thomas and Edith arrive and settle into Thomas’ broken down albeit beautiful home. As she spends more time there, however, Edith begins to notice strange things around the house and becomes haunted by ghosts. When she realizes things may not be what they seem, Edith attempts to navigate the truth about what is really happening at Crimson Peak.
Any horror elements, mostly taking place in the form of ghosts, feel like a complete afterthought. None of it is that frightening, but rather a polite haunting that is shoehorned in to spice up a dull romantic story. The romance feels decidedly passionless, as those plotlines are not given nearly enough time to breathe or develop. After a few meetings and some lustful looks, the audience is led to believe that Thomas and Edith are deeply in love, which never feels like the case.
While some plot points and a general sense of unease are pretty obvious early on, the film plays those plot points close to the vest, and takes forever to reveal (barely) what is actually going on. When the film reaches enters it’s Third Act and motives and answers are finally revealed, the movie has taken far too long to get to the point and there’s an air of “Who cares?” that permeates the exposition.
There’s no question the film’s gothic aesthetics are pretty to look at, but once you get past the sheen, there’s nothing worthwhile there. When you throw in some ham-fisted usage of the color red for blood imagery, a lame script of clichéd dialogue, and far too much brooding (I’m looking at you, Chastain), you get a film that lacks in nearly every department. Though the genre of the film may be up for debate, the fact remains that the romantic elements aren’t alluring enough and the horror elements are not chilling enough leaving “Crimson Peak” as a film with much to be desired.