A week before Halloween I found myself sitting on the 13th floor of a mall in Times Square (Hong Kong – a country in which a certain part of a certain scene was cut) watching a gothic horror movie. To late did it occur to me that I don’t actually like horror films and there was a serious risk that I may lose my overpriced popcorn (sweet) to the theatre floor. I wasn’t to worry. Although it does contain a mix of; classic horror, jumpy moments, an appropriate backbone of suspension and a chase scene. Focusing on its horror elements alone would be misleading – it’s not actually that scary (honest) and is rather a gothic romance film with ghosts (an excellent one at that). Most of the visual horror is present in the trailer, rather than spoil or dilute the film, it just makes room for the main attraction, the (occasional) horror of the human condition.
Ladies and Gentleman, Crimson Peak:
At a meeting with her editor, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) an aspiring author at first rejects the idea that in order to sell her manuscript she will need to add a love story but later concedes. The story formed is therefore a twisted and poisonous one amongst other things that becomes necessary for the film to execute the feat that it does. The first half of the film seemingly exists with a rather stiff and cliché script to introduce and outline what is to come in the second half of the film, as both the setting and focus shift to gothic horror following Edith’s marriage to Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and her subsequent move to Crimson Peak.
In this house of three the more interesting relationship exists between Lucille (Jessica Chastain), Thomas’ elder sister and Edith, as Lucille tries to manipulate her due to her feelings towards Thomas and the basic need of self-preservation. Chastain plays the fine line of Lucille’s character with the master of a compulsive to marvellous effect, smothering and barely tolerating, her character is revealed in pieces as she loses the ability to control herself. However it is Thomas’ character that is developed as his mangle of childhood innocence and preying monster morphs as he falls in love with Edith, making him the perfect mix of both victim and resenting predator. This occurs thanks to Edith’s genuine love and the contrast she creates within the house that causes some, if a little slow, meaningful reflection and ideals of a different future. Edith’s development meanwhile is mostly left in America, originally a strong character with ambition most growth is stalled by her almost bed-ridden condition. Despite this her strength of character is something she retains throughout as she attempts to unfold the mysteries behind the ghosts of Crimson Peak.
An execution of beautiful imagery twisted and tainted by that of nature and circumstance, Crimson Peak plays host to and rather reflects a mixture of horror styles. Thanks to the strong characters Guillermo del Torro is able to combine both the gruesome and its embodied living ideals to create a memorable film using both a mixture of 360, tracking and direct shots. Whilst Guillermo’s vision is key, it could easily have missed the mark where it not for Wasikowska, Chastain and Hiddleston’s hone of their craft.