Review: Crimson Peak

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Guillermo Del Toro tried to recreate a Mario Bava-styled technicolour movie and it did work out pretty well. A beautifully crafted period piece set at the turn of the 20th century, you will be drawn to drown in the fantasy that is Crimson Peak.

The movie starts in Buffalo, New York, bathed in a tungsten glow where Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) tries to get her writing to be taken seriously. Set among warm brown, faded yellow and creamy white rustling fabrics, she is a young woman who is trying to get her stories published in the Atlantic Monthly. Narrative-wise, this is about the end of the development that takes place with her character. She is soon swept off her feet by Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), an aristocrat in a smart suit. Thomas, who is in New York with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) to raise capital for his contraption attracts the displeasure of Edith’s father who forbids him from courting his daughter.

From the lack of dimensions to Edith’s personality to her falling for Thomas when he calls her writing “rather good” even without having read through it once, the storyline, is clearly not the movie’s strongest suit. Somehow the ‘lovers’ are brought together in the face of a tragedy – Thomas marries Edith and brings her back to Allerdale Hall, his ancestral home.

The imposing palace, on top of a clay mine, could arguably be the lead character of the movie. Though it lacks the romantics that surround Manderley in Rebecca, the intricately prodigious production by Thomas Sanders and cinematography by Dan Lanstsen make the house a living and breathing thing.

Held together by catacombs and crumbling staircases, Allerdale Hall boasts of a hole in the roof and rotting wooden floors that bleed red clay. The visuals in the movie tell a story on their own. The deep reds and dark greens form a perfect contrast against the greying winter blues.

Coming to the story, it feels like Del Toro overplayed the aesthetics without giving room for growth of any core relationships. The interactions between Edith and her father are few and fleeting. The same goes for her and her ‘sort of’ suitor Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam). All the romance between Thomas and Edith is transparently based on false pretence and wicked intent. Any subsequent entanglements are killed off within moments of Edith entering her new home.

Simply put, most of the plot is predictable and utterly uninteresting. The only thing that could be said about the ghosts in the story is that they are sadly unnecessary.

Most of the tension in the movie radiates off the Sharpes – their spine shuddering smiles and sins unspeakable. But none of it evokes fear or horror. Rather, a strange sympathy for Edith. You start wishing for her escape, and that is all.

The usual build-up of pace that one has come to expect of most movies is missing. Rather, it moves in spastic jolts before descending down the stairs of insanity for the final climax.

In spite all this, with sweepingly romantic music by Fernando Velazquez cued perfectly for the scenes, this movie is a tangle of anguish that make it more than its Victorian gothic romantic-dramatic horror fantasy label.

Having said that, quite literally speaking, the most interesting thing about the movie Crimson Peak, is Crimson Peak itself, and not much more.

Words by Navya Hebbar

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