Review: Crimson Peak – Better red than dead?

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Crimson PeakSo what would make a really cool setting for a gothic ghost story? How about an eerie dilapidated mansion sitting atop of a snow covered hill in an isolated corner of nineteenth-century England? And what if the surrounding snow turned blood red due to the red clay in the soil beneath it? Sounds like that would look pretty awesome doesn’t it? It does, but unfortunately the spectacular aesthetic look of the new film, Crimson Peak, is about the only thing it has going for it.

Fanboy favorite, writer/director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), mostly misses the mark when it comes to storytelling this time around and, apparently, he devoted most of his creative energy towards the accomplished look of his latest effort. Unfortunately, wrapping a tortured, lame and time-worn tale in fancy new garnishments still makes for a mundane movie experience.

An aspiring author, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who favors romantic ghost stories, finds herself in the midst of a real-life misadventure very similar to her fictional work. She falls in love with a handsome British stranger, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who is in America seeking investors for his Steampunky brick-making invention.

Yes, the male lead makes bricks out of the high-grade clay on his property. How else do you think we’d get that fancy red snow?

Edith’s wealthy father (Jim Beaver) is (not so) mysteriously killed after he uncovers shady business dealings regarding Sharpe, and the innocent young girl seeks refuge in the deceitful inventors arms.

Crimson PeakThe young couple is soon married and together with Thomas’ sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), they travel back to his creepy crimson clad estate in England. Is Lucille Thomas’ sister or really his lover – or both? Will Edith be convinced to sign over her inheritance to Thomas? Will the young girl run around the haunted mansion with reckless abandon, when she should be running straight back to America? I think you can probably answer all of those questions.

When the story is not being downright predictable it goes in the direction of being straight-up inane, with a couple of sequences that are needlessly expounded upon – for that one person who has never seen a scary movie before. For instance: one of Edith’s suitors, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), happens to be an amateur ghost hunter and he has to take time to explain the science behind how the undead spirits exist.

I’m probably being harsher on this film than it deserves, but I hold del Toro to a high standard and I think he could have done much better with this movie. It’s still probably in the top tier of this season’s run of horror flicks, and it is definitely pleasant to look at, but don’t expect the narrative to break any new ground, or red clay, as it were. Grade: 6.5/10

Photos © 2015 – Universal Pictures

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