No stranger to blockbusters or creepy gothic mysteries, Del Toro – director of Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim – has created a beautiful backdrop for this rather straightforward horror story. No expense has been spared either on the sets or the costume design in this painstakingly rendered tale of despair which is thankfully more complicated than it looks …
At first glance, Crimson Peak is a classic romance between a young American ingenue and a gallant yet somewhat down-at-heel baronet from England, lately arrived in the States to seek backing for his clay-mining machine back home in bleak Cumberland. Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddlestone) may have won the lady’s heart but he fails to secure the finances required to finish his industrial digger from the wealthy money men of Chicago, so he’s forced to return to Blighty, new wife on his arm but desperately short of funds.
Eeeeh, it’s grim oop north, and nowhere grimmer than Crimson Peak itself, the manor house so-called because of the rich red clay it’s sat upon. Slowly sinking into the very land itself, the semi-decrepit mansion should’ve been warning enough to young Edith, the newly-wed bride, but she’s seemingly blinded by love ..
Always in the shadows – both literally and figuratively – is Sir Thomas’ sister, Lucille, who shares ownership of the property with her brother.
This rather odd threesome settle in as winter begins to envelope the land and as usual with creepy old houses, Edith soon finds herself out of her comfort zone and unsure as to what exactly is going on. Forbidden to visit certain parts of the building and increasingly ostracised by her sister-in-law, she also falls ill and begins to realise she’s losing control of the situation .. her marriage, her health and her very life.
All three lead actors give suitably stilted and Victorian performances – all tight lips and corsets, after all – but the greatest performance is by the house itself, which takes on a life of its own as it slowly wheezes and splutters in the background while subsidence carries on throughout, red clay oozing through the walls and floors like thick, half-coagulated blood.
If you have an interest in period dramas or costumes then you really should watch Crimson Peak as they leave no stone unturned nor any stitch unsewn. I can’t imagine the budget for velvet alone, but the result is stunning.
The story isn’t bad either, but as you’ve probably guessed by now I can’t reveal any more for fear of spoilers.
As horror films go, this is fairly typical in terms of plot and setting but it’s paced well and it’s not a modern-day shlock job looking for cheap or quick frights .. it’s more unnerving than that, peeling back the layers of misery for characters and audience alike.
Misery is a good word.
It’s brutal too. There’s a good deal of juicy violence going on.
Cleaver is another good word.
You get the idea …
This is a classy, well-made period thriller with oodles of charm and a properly filthy underbelly. The red clay is a brilliant metaphor throughout and also helps create the most gruesome colour palette on film for many a year.
If you like classic horror, you’ll love Crimson Peak.