No matter what the quality of the films he directs is you can always count on the fact that a Guillermo del Toro film will be visually appealing. Such is the case with his latest, a creepy horror film called Crimson Peak. Despite the fact that it benefits from his great visual style and the acting trio of Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska there are some problems with the story and the execution of it that sometimes bogs the film down.
In the 19th century in Buffalo, New York the debonair English baron Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston – The Avengers, Thor) woos the young and wealthy American Edith (Mia Wasikowska – Stoker, The Kids Are Alright). After they are married the Sharpes move back to Thomas’ native England. They live with Thomas’ sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain – The Martian, Interstellar) in the falling apart mansion called Allerdale Hall. To say that this place is a fixer upper is an understatement as it has a huge hole in the ceiling and no electricity. On top there is a few other creepier things going on like water running from the taps that is red, an infestation of moths and a howling wind whipping up and down the halls. If all that isn’t bad enough it is sinking into some clay-like stuff covering the peak of the mountain (where the film and house get its (nick)name from).
Obviously Thomas and Lucille are broke and he is trying to get a fledgling clay harvesting business going, so he has money on his mind. Of which his wife has tons. Then her father dies in a violent manner. On top of all that weirdness, of which Edith seems a bit slow on the upkeep about, Lucille is off as well. We’re not sure what her deal is, but she is a dark and odd bird.
Specters and other odd occurrences begin happening with more frequency. Finally Edith tunes in to the fact that all is not well in her marital home.
There is nothing subtle about the way that del Toro and the script he is working from go about setting the creepy backdrop. Everything is obvious and stated right from the get go. It does not take any time at all to get to the fact that they are trying their hardest to scare you. To its credit the film is not totally what you expect and it has some tricks up its sleeves. Especially true if you have seen the trailer and believe you know the deal. You don’t.
Many of the elements of the film are strong. The cast does a good job though there are times where Jessica Chastain fell into the trap of overplaying her character. Though with that type of oddball woman there is a huge temptation to munch up all the scenery around you. If there is a director working today who is perfect for this type of dark and dreary film it is del Toro. A man blessed with a wild and vivid imagination. His inclination towards the utilization of macabre visuals really is the ticket for Crimson Peak and is the best part about the film. When the film occasionally stumbles it is due to the script. It is tripped up due to the huge amount of clichés that riddle it. At certain points I knew what was coming from a country mile away. Then there is the bipolar nature of the story in that it wavers back and forth between a slasher film to one that focuses on a supernatural mystery.