Director Guillermo del Toro has already proven he has a twisted and masterful grasp on the fantasy/horror genre with his 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth, but now he is staging a return with his new film Crimson Peak. Written by del Toro and Matthew Robbins, this eerie ghost story stars Mia Wasikowska as Edith, a bright, young American writer who has long been able to see beyond what most people do. Her encounters with ghosts started as a child after the death of her mother, and are stirred up once again when she falls quickly and madly in love with a mysterious Englishman, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston).
Soon after meeting him, Edith moves in with Thomas and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), to their decrepit mansion that seems to have a life of it’s own. But when the house causes her ghost sightings to become more frequent – each more horrific than the last – Edith begins to wonder what it is that has happened in this place, and whether Thomas and Lucille are really the people she knows them to be.
What’s great about this film is how visually captivating it is. Similar to Pan’s Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro has created some incredibly dark and violent (surprisingly violent, you have been warned!) imagery, from the horrific, skeletal ghosts to the house that breathes with a life of its own. The characters, the special effects, sets and costumes are a feast for the eyes, sucking you deep down into an entirely new world, and while I didn’t agree with all of his directorial choices, for the most part this is the most impressive part of the film. It’s unfortunate then, that it was let down on so many other counts.
The film is disjointed from the beginning, with strangely unnecessary cuts and scenes, and their are visible editing problems that pluck you abruptly out of the escapist world del Toro is trying to create. The story itself is also confusing, and at times a little bit convoluted and a little bit misleading. The story hovered in this weird limbo between supernatural fantasy and realistic thriller, and the fact that it never really chose a single lane meant that there were a number of unanswered questions once the credits started rolling. While the performances from the three leads were impressive, and Jessica Chastain was particularly creepy as the coldhearted and terrifying Lucille, the support cast left a little to be desired – yet another flaw that immediately pulls you out of the action.
I think there was real potential for this movie to be great, and there were some genuinely scary scenes (although not enough to classify it as a full-blown horror). And while visually Crimson Peak is worth a look in, it disappointingly falls down in a number of other areas of its execution. But, if you’re looking for a Halloween flick (and maybe some costume inspiration), then this would be the film for you.