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Crimson Peak Movie Review and The Gothic Walking Orgasm

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In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds - and remembers.

 

Crimson Peak is a Gothic Horror, with a touch of romance, from the mind of director and writer Guillermo del Toro, staring well-known actors- Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam and Mia Wasikowaska. Crimson Peak was released in October 2015. It cost $55 million to make, but only made around $32 million in the US, and around $75 million total worldwide, just enough to break even.

 

Crimson Peak had a lot of buzz behind it prior to it’s release. There aren’t many Gothic Horror movies being made like there were in the 1960’s and 1970’s, mainly from Hammer Films. The most recent Gothic Horror prior to Crimson Peak is 2012’s The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe (cost $17 million to make and made $128 million worldwide). If you haven’t seen The Woman in Black, I recommend it for a great story, incredible frights (I jumped more than a few time), Daniel Radcliffe doing a superb job in one of his first adult roles after Harry Potter, and a twist of an ending you won’t see coming. Crimson Peak has somewhat of a same tone as The Woman in Black. The Woman in Black is not as fantastical as Crimson Peak. Crimson Peak relies on brighter colors such as red and white, whereas The Woman in Black is more muted. Whereas The Lady in Black is adapted from the 1983 novella by Susan Hill, Crimson Peak is an original, from the mind of del Toro, but feels literary in its telling. Authors known for classic Gothic Horror or Gothic Romance such as Edgar Allen Poe, Henry James, Shirley Jackson and Daphne DuMaurier would have given their approval for Crimson Peak because it does embody all the traits of a Gothic, and a horror, but with a twist that VC Andrews would approve of. (people seem to forget Andrews was a Gothic author at heart, specifically with the Dollanganger series, and Flower in the Attic)

 

Crimsons Peak’s story isn’t just about a boy meeting a girl and how they fall in love. There’s much more to this relationship. Also Crimson Peak has a nice touch of feminism and girl power regarding the characters of Edith, played by Wasikowska, and Lucille, played by Chastain. Edith is a young woman who lives with her rich industrialist father (played by Jim Beaver of Deadwood and Supernatural fame) in late 19th century New York. Edith dreams of being a novelist. But she doesn’t want to write romance, as most assume because she’s a woman. She wants to write literature, specifically horror. “She explains that the book she's writing is not a ghost story but a story with ghosts in it in which the ghost are a symbol for the past, and that even though it's not the main theme, love also plays a role" (nudge nudge wink wink). Her father admires Edith and supports her dream. The way Edith and her father is portrayed is one of the best relationships portrayed here. del Toro makes a point to show the importance of family bonds the deep love between a father and child, and even a brother and sister. Edith is very outspoken and has a sharp wit. She isn’t a weeping violet or a Mary Sue. Her portrayal of Edith is refreshing, and del Toro’s ode to great literary heroines of the past we admire. But Edith hides a secret. She can see ghosts. The first time she saw a ghost was her mother’s. Her mother came to Edith as a child and warned her to beware of something called Crimson Peak.

 

One day a handsome English baronet visits her father in order to invest in a machine he’s invented to mine clay on his property, Allerdale Hall. Edith finds him fascinating and handsome. This is Thomas Sharpe, played by Tom Hiddleston, who in a three words is a “Gothic Walking Orgasm” (his GWO comes into play later in the movie). Thomas’s sister, Lucille is very proper, regal but remote. The Sharpe siblings have some other plan in mind than just finding investors, which appears to be sinister because only the audience is privy to their conversations (del Toro almost breaks the fourth wall this way). Edith’s father refuses to invest in Thomas because he believes Thomas isn’t honorable and hiding something even though Thomas is very charming and has a smile most women would swoon over. Edith swoons inside, but she hides her attraction for Thomas so she's not hurt. But then something horrible happens. Edith’s father is murdered at his gentleman’s club. Thomas is there to comfort Edith and sweeps her off her feet to the dismay of her childhood friend, Dr. Alan McMichael, played by Hunnam. Edith marries Thomas and they travel back to England and Allerdale Hall. Edith has found her HEA (Thomas wants her to continue writing and finish her story in order to get published. What a prince of a guy!).

 

When Edith arrives at Allerdale Hall it’s a horror in the literal sense. It’s a monstrous mausoleum that’s falling apart. The ground bleeds red because of the clay, and it gives the famous phrase, “it was a dark and stormy night” a deeper meaning. Edith settles in the best she can but then she begins seeing ghosts that may or may not want to harm her even they tell her to beware, much like her mother’s ghost did. Edith must unlock the mystery of Allerdale, and that of Thomas and Lucille, who hold dark secrets about their past.

 

del Toro does an amazing job with Crimson Peak mainly with the cinematography. Alfred Hitchcock’s influence is big here with the color palette del Toro uses, much like Hitchcock did with Vertigo. Green is the color focus in Vertigo, while red is the one in Crimson Peak. The house becomes a living breathing thing because of the techniques del Toro uses. Also the special effects are just enough that it’s not a nuisance.

 

Tom Hiddleston was made for the role of Sharpe. He does a subtle tortured soul very well, but also has a playful side. As for smoldering sexuality, it’s here, again as a WGO. But is Thomas the hero of this story? Some would say yes, but as the story is progresses, his tortured soul is a major focus but it’s become pitiful and sad. You sympathize with him even as his motivations and actions come to light. Jessica Chastain as Lucille, and Thomas’s counterpart does a fine job, but borders on a caricature. She reminded me of Rebecca’s Miss Danvers, another great movie Hitchcock directed. Charlie Hunnam as Edith’s other suitor does an adequate job, playing the nice beta guy to counteract Thomas. As for Mia Wasikowaska as Edith, she really shines here. She’s Jane Eyre, Mrs. De Winter and Elizabeth Benning all rolled into one.

 

Crimson Peak is del Toro’s ode to great Gothic literature, including Regency and Victorian romance. As a fan of these three genres- Gothic, Horror and Romance, I would recommend those who enjoy them like I do to watch Crimson Peak. Also I loved how del Toro fell back on some techniques Hitchcock used in his most famous movies, such as Rebecca, Vertigo and The Birds.

 

I do believe in years to come Crimson Peak will be better examined and perhaps a cult classic for del Toro fans. An admirable project by a great director who has already made his mark in film.

 

Final Grade: B+

 

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Interesting trivia about Crimson Peak: (from IMBD)

 

Benedict Cumberbatch was originally cast as the male lead but left the project due to undisclosed reasons. He was replaced by Tom Hiddleston.

 

Guillermo del Toro's inspirations for the movie include The Innocents (1961), The Haunting (1963), The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976), and The Shining (1980).

 

Author, Stephen King gave his seal of approval on Crimson Peak. “Gorgeous and just f–king terrifying.” In a subsequent tweet, he claimed that the film “electrified me in the same way Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead electrified me when I saw it back in the day.”

 

Other Crimson Peak reviews:

A.V. Club

Variety

The Wrap