In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “While I couldn’t convince myself to give a single shit about the story or the characters, it’s visually amazing, and a really impressive technical achievement.”
“A house as old as this one becomes, in time, a living thing. It starts holding onto things… keeping them alive when they shouldn’t be. Some of them are good; some of them bad… Some should never be spoken about again.”
Guillermo Del Toro is one of the most creative and visually impressive directors working in mainstream Hollywood today. He uses special effects like no one else out there and his original stories are some of the most unique you’ll see on a multiplex screen. I liked his Hell Boy movies, loved Pans Labyrinth and even liked Pacific Rim a lot more than most people. But for all that, I couldn’t bring myself to get excited about Crimson Peak. The lackluster reviews didn’t help, but it was more the subject matter that turned me off. The idea of a dark, gothic romance, ghost story just wasn’t enough to get me to see it on the big screen.
Then I discovered the amazing Directors Cut podcast from the Director’s Guild of America, where A list directors interview each other about their latest movies. Catching up on old episodes, I heard Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu interview Del Toro about his dark, gothic romance, ghost story, and his enthusiasm was so contagious, I had to watch Crimson Peak later that same day.
As a young girl in 1870s Buffalo New York, Edith Cushing begins to see the ghost of her recently deceased mother. The specter warns Edith to beware of the Crimson Peak. Years later, as a young woman, now played by Mia Wasikowska, Edith captures to eye of English nobleman Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Thomas is in America seeking funding from Edith’s industrialist father (Jim Beaver) for his clay mining contraption. Disapproving of his courtship of Edith, her father bribes Thomas to leave the country, along with his sister, Lucile (Jessica Chastain).
Soon after accepting the bribe, the Cushing patriarch is brutally murdered, but it’s covered up as an accident. With him out of the way, Thomas takes Edith as his bride and moves back to England with his new wife, waiting for her inheritance to come through. Once at the Sharpe’s home, the ancient Allerdale Hall, Edith discovers a decrepit mansion, rotting from the moisture above, and sinking into the clay below. When she begins to see more ghosts, and learns that the nickname for the estate is Crimson Peak, her new husband and his creepy sister become all the more sinister.
Set at the birth of electricity and when the idea of mechanisation was still a fresh revolution, Crimson Peak revels in the vintage versions of these things that we take so much for granted today. Wax cylinder recordings, steam engines and electricity as a novelty are just as fantastical and magical as Edith’s ghosts. And all of that means that the reality of her surroundings is just as off putting as the other worldly elements.
It turns out, all of my preconceptions about Crimson Peak were right, for better and for worse. While I couldn’t convince myself to give a single shit about the story or the characters, it’s visually amazing, and a really impressive technical achievement. I need to watch it again, but next time, it’ll be with a director’s commentary. Because while the story never interested me, I have no doubt that listening to Guillermo Del Toro talk about how he made it, would be nothing less than fascinating.