Crimson Peak

Image from the film Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak [2015] is a gothic horror romance from acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Charlie Hunnam. Following a death in the family, an aspiring writer struggles to unlock the mysteries of her new home with an enigmatic outsider and his austere sister.

“Beware Crimson Peak.” A word of warning about Crimson Peak, this is very different film that is advertised. More of a gothic romance with ghosts in it, less of a horror film surrounding ghosts. Walking into the cinema knowing that much should alter one’s perception of the film and allow it to be taken for what it really is. There are ghosts, and they’re quite beautifully terrible things, but they aren’t literally what the story is really about.

Crimson Peak’s Pacing Reeks. This is a rare occasion where a film’s running time hinders it because it’s actually too short. The first 20-30 minutes of the film seem so quickly paced and cut together that there’s no honest establishment of character relations allowed. We get who these characters are and the role they are to play, but we can’t believe for a second that the two scenes showing these characters walking in a park eventually lead them to have fallen in love. The story ultimately unfolds more regularly once we arrive at the house, but even still there are moments when cuts are made that feel like there were a few more seconds of something (anything) that would have given us more. More time to absorb a scene, a reaction, an exchange, or simply the beautiful set design. The whole thing feels like del Toro was forced to keep a sub 2 hour run time and there’s easily an additional half an hour that would create a much more rich story and film.

Crimson Sleek Design. It will be absolutely no surprise that the production quality is lush and bountiful. The costume design is genuine and on point, and the house is a marvelous piece of set design. Every part of the house was built for it, no spare parts were used. The biggest downfall is that everything still appears so limited. It seems like we only venture down the same four corridors or visit the same four rooms in this massive mansion filled with years of dreams and nightmares. Again it feels like everything has been trimmed down and cut short while there’s an extensive amount of exploration to be had.

Crimson Bleak. The cinematography and color scheme is actually quite subtle and clever. Everything outside of the house seems to be tinted in a sepia color grade, a brown wash that makes everything soft and dulled so that when we cut to the happenings at the house the colors pop and take notice much more than they would have otherwise. Within the colorful landscape, clever contrasts are used to emphasize as well. The typically blueish hallways allow the orangey-red ghosts to really stand out, and of course, the white snow allows for the crimson peak to work a dramatic effect.

Crimson Creak. I typically find that most sound mixes don’t truly add anything to the rear speakers in a surround system. Ultimately it’s supposed to be a subtle immersion, hearing bullets whiz by or helicopters fly overhead. Crimson Peak is the first film in a while that the sound mixing was really used to full effect. Because of the creaks, moans, and groans of the old house, there are beautiful beats where we get to experience the auditory moment in the same detail as the characters. Boards squeak, pipes rumble, the foundation shifts, all of it circling the entire cinema as if the room we’re viewing in is the house itself. It’s a wonderful effect that’s worth giving props to.

Crimson Weak. Ultimately there’s more promise in what could have, should have been than what really is. For a gothic romance, the chemistry doesn’t really spark. For a horror film, there’s really nothing horrifying. The performances are all strong, the production quality is pretty to look at, and there’s an interesting story there that just needs more time to be fleshed out. It’s a bit silly, stereotypical, or cringe worthy at points too. The ending, in particular, falls into tropes that del Toro should be well above as a filmmaker. Then again, this entire production doesn’t seem up to par with what del Toro is capable of.

A visually appealing romantic ghost story lacking in romance and ghosts. 

Watch Crimson Peak on Amazon or iTunes