By Shelby Escott
“Crimson Peak” is an elegant take on horror, a film set at the turn of the 20th century, a period when mystics and mediums rubbed elbows with British aristocracy.
If you are expecting a fast-paced thriller full of cheap scares and gritty horrors, this is not the movie that you’re looking for. Guillermo del Toro, best known for his work on films such as “Hellboy” and “Pacific Rim,” sidesteps horror movie staples: a deserted summer camp, a bloodthirsty villain with a knife or chainsaw
Del Toro uses his storytelling ability to a different purpose, creating a movie more gothic than slasher flick that reflects Mary Shelley’s original “Frankenstein.”
The love story at the center of the plot adds an element of sophistication to the film, a dark romance that befits the gory truth behind Valentine’s Day more than Halloween’s traditional intent to scare.
Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is a young American author of ghost stories at the turn of the 20th century who falls in love with a British aristocrat seeking investors in America. It doesn’t get haughtier than that. It could stand to get more original, however.
Tragedy befalls Edith, pushing her to marry the aristocratic Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and return to England. They live with his sister, Jessica Chastain (Lucille Sharpe), in their secluded and decaying mansion, Allerdale Hall, on Crimson Peak.
And that’s where the horror elements come in, based around a tragic secret. Murders ensue and gruesome specters haunt the film, balanced by the actors’ charm and beautiful graphic effects. “Crimson Peak” is an artistic drama drenched in blood.
The movie has its moments of twists and frights, but the repurposed plot gives it a cliché vibe, a ghost costume made from a sheet. It doesn’t render the movie unwatchable, by any means, just predictable. But what it lacks in originality is compensated by enchanting storytelling.
While it is not the typical “Paranormal Activity” ghost story, Del Toro’s film attempts to go deeper into exploring the paranormal through tragedy and emotion as opposed to science and reasoning. He succeeds in telling a more romanticized period piece that relied on plot rather than the average horror written around scare tactics.
Hiddleston, a British actor known for playing Loki in the Marvel movie universe, does not disappoint in his captivatingly demented role. And Wasikowska, a heroine that shines with bravery and innocence, proves to be a great sparring partner with the handsome antagonist.
It was Chastain’s performance as Lady Lucille that drove the dark and disturbingly gruesome plot home. The acting was convincing enough to illuminate the artistic eye behind the blood-soaked tale of mystery and murder. Del Toro took a Shakespeare romance, dragged it through Jigsaw’s playroom, mounted it in a gilded frame and out came something beautiful.
The result is a great upscale Halloween option.