Sunday, October 25, 2015
Directed by Guillermo del Toro and written by del Toro and Matthew Robbins, Crimson Peak is the story of a young woman who marries an aristocrat as she moves into her husband’s mansion as it is filled with ghosts and other things. The film plays into a woman with an interest in the supernatural as she gets more than she bargains for in her new life. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, and Jim Beaver. Crimson Peak is an entrancing yet eerie film from Guillermo del Toro.
Set in the early 20th Century, the film revolves around a young author who meets a British aristocrat as she falls for him where they later marry where she would live into his decayed mansion with his sister as the home is filled with ghosts and other mysterious things. It’s a film that plays into a young woman who has been fascinated with ghosts since she was a child as she wants to write stories with ghosts. Upon meeting this aristocrat, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is intrigued by this man though appearance in clothing and other eccentricities raises the suspicions of her father (Jim Beaver) and family friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam). Once she marries Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and moves into their home, many mysterious occurs as well as the treatment she is receiving from his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain).
The film’s screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins doesn’t just play into Edith’s fascination with ghosts but also with those that don’t play by conventional behavior or play by certain rules. It’s among the reasons why she would be attracted to someone like Thomas as he wears clothes that are out of style while having ideas that seem to be very radical. While Edith’s father is aware of what Thomas wants, he is suspicious about him and his sister as he asks for some investigation into who the Sharpes are. Upon realizing what they’re up to, things don’t go as they’re planned once Edith marries Thomas where she does question the things that go on in the house as well as other odd things. Thomas and Lucille Sharpe are strange not just for the Gothic clothes they wear but also in the house they live which is decaying and in need of work.
While the two do share ideas of what they want to, Thomas is the kinder of the two where it seems like he is falling for Edith for her money but he becomes more fascinated with her as the story progresses. Lucille however, is a very troubling woman as someone who has a very dark demeanor as she doesn’t seem to like having Edith around where she always gives her tea and pretend to be very kind towards her. Yet, even she knows that Edith knows what they’re probably up to which adds a much darker edge to her character. Once more revelations towards the Sharpe are unveiled, the story definitely becomes more engaging in terms of the drama and the stakes that occur. Though it does deviate from many of the conventions that is expected in horror, del Toro and Robbins do make it more about the setting and the relationship of the characters rather than going for the big scares.
Guillermo del Toro’s direction definitely owes a lot to not just Gothic imagery and set pieces but also mythological elements that explores the idea of ghosts and what they want. While it doesn’t play towards many of the conventions of horror in terms of big scares, del Toro is more concerned with the story as it relates to Edith’s own fascination with ghosts and her need to find more in her somewhat sheltered existence as a writer. Shot largely in Toronto as both Buffalo, New York and as England, the film maintains this look that is quite unique from the sepia-drenched look of Buffalo where everything feels modern and progressing as opposed to the world of the Sharpes which represents the old world that is decaying and trying to catch up with the modern world. The usage of the wide and medium shots gives del Toro the chance to breathe life into these landscapes with some unique tracking shots for many of those exteriors.
For the scenes set in England, del Toro definitely plays up the Gothic tone of the film where he knows how to create suspense as it relates to the ghosts that Edith encounters. It’s mixture of terror and mystery definitely play into the home of the Sharpes where it is a home is surrounded by red mud that is covered in snow and a basement filled with more red mud. The direction would have del Toro create some unique images but also a sense of dread which doesn’t just relate to the Sharpes and their past but also what is happening to Edith. Once the mysteries relating to the Sharpes are unveiled, the film does take on a darker yet more dramatic tone where lots of conflicts would occur as it’s not just about love but also death. Overall, del Toro crafts a mesmerizing yet thrilling film about a young woman’s marriage to an aristocrat and her encounter with dark spirits in the new home she moves into.
Cinematographer Dan Laustsen does phenomenal work with the film‘s ravishing cinematography from its usage of candles to maintain an atmosphere in some of the interior scenes as well as the usage of sepia-drenched colors for many of the scenes set in Buffalo along with the usage of blue at the Sharpes‘ mansion. Editor Bernat Vilaplana does brilliant work with the editing with its stylish usage of transition wipes as well as jump-cuts and other stylish cuts to play into its suspense and drama. Production designer Thomas E. Sanders, with art director Brandt Gordon and set decorators Jeffrey A. Melvin and Shane Vieau, does amazing work with the set design from the home of Edith lived in Buffalo to the many rooms and exterior setting at the Sharpes‘ family home. Costume designer Kate Hawley does excellent work with the clothes from the clothes that the men wear to the gowns that the women wear including the very colorful yet eerie dresses that Lucille wears.
Special effects makeup artists Jason Detheridge, Nacho Diaz, and Neil Morrill do fantastic work with the look of the makeup of some of the gore that occurs in a few characters including the hairstyles that Edith and Lucille sport. Visual effects supervisor Dennis Berardi do excellent work with the visual effects from the design of the ghosts as it has this very eerie yet evocative look to them that is scary but also entrancing. Sound editor Dennis Leonard and sound designer Randy Thom do superb work with the sound in creating some unique sound effects for the ghosts as well as creating some mixing for some of the atmospheric textures for its suspenseful moments. The film’s music by Fernando Velazquez does remarkable work with the music as it is this lush orchestral music that plays into the drama and suspense which features a mixture of string arrangements and piano pieces while music supervisors Peter Afterman and Margaret Yen provide some classical music that Lucille would often play.
The casting by Robin D. Cook does wonderful work with the casting as it features some notable small roles from Leslie Hope as Dr. McMichael’s mother, Emily Coutts as Dr. McMichael’s sister, Burn Gorman as an inspector named Holly that Edith’s father hired to find out about the Sharpes, Sofia Wells as the young Edith, and as ghosts, Doug Jones and Javier Botet who both provide their physical selves for movements of the ghosts. Jim Beaver is excellent as Edith’s father Carter Cushing as a self-made man who is suspicious about the Sharpes’ as he is more concerned for Edith’s safety and happiness as it’s a very engaging performance from the veteran actor. Charlie Hunnam is fantastic as Dr. Alan McMichael as a childhood friend of Edith who knows a lot about bodies and such where he is also suspicious of the Sharpes’ where his investigation about them would have him come to England.
Jessica Chastain is incredible as Lucille Sharpe as this woman who is reluctant about having Edith in her family as it becomes clear that she doesn’t really like her as it’s a performance that is very dark and also quite scary at times where Chastain goes all out towards the film’s third act as it is definitely one of Chastain’s finest performances. Tom Hiddleston is brilliant as Thomas Sharpe as a baronet who falls for Edith as he brings her to England while hoping some of her financial connections could help him with his mining machine as it’s an ambiguous performance which has Hiddleston showing some conflict in his devotion towards Lucille and love for Edith. Finally, there’s Mia Wasikowska in an amazing performance as Edith Cushing as an aspiring writer who falls for the mysterious Thomas Sharpe where she moves into his home and encounter ghosts which only furthers her fascination with them while dealing with the darker aspects of her home as it’s one of Wasikowska’s finest performances.
Crimson Peak is a phenomenal film from Guillermo del Toro. Featuring a great cast, dazzling visuals, a sumptuous score, and an entrancing story. The film is a very unusual yet enthralling one from del Toro that doesn’t play into the conventions of horror while bending all sorts of genres to create something that is very different. In the end, Crimson Peak is a sensational film from Guillermo del Toro.
Guillermo del Toro Films: Cronos - Mimic/Mimic (Director's Cut) - The Devil's Backbone - Blade II - Hellboy - Pan's Labyrinth - Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Pacific Rim - The Shape of Water - Nightmare Alley (2021 film) - Pinocchio (2022 film) - The Auteurs #10: Guillermo del Toro
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