Sisters always know best.
Young author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is destroyed by the news of her father’s death. So much so, that she’s left without anyone to really care for her and take over her day-to-day doings. That’s when the strapping young lad from England known as Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), comes around and sweeps her off of her feet. While Edith is initially hesitant to hook up with Sharpe, she eventually gives in and starts to see him for all that he is. While he is maybe too tied and dedicated to his older sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain), she soon realizes that it’s just because they have an inseparable bond that cannot be tied or broken. But Edith begins to get more curious about the history that the Sharpe relatives have and, in ways she least expected to, finds out certain things that are quite shady and surprising. Add on the fact that she seems to be constantly followed around by a creepy-looking witch, Edith has a lot to be worried about. But it’s ultimately up to her to figure out whether or not she’s going to make it out this situation, knowing everything she needs to in order to stay alive.
Like I’ve said before, Guillermo del Toro is not someone I love. While I do appreciate the fact that he puts a fine amount of thought into his pieces, overall, they tend to feel as if they’re so reliant on how beautiful they look, that when it comes to actually giving an effective story, he sort of chucks it all out the window. While he’s definitely interested in keeping his audiences compelled by every move he makes, he also doesn’t forget that he’s got a lot of pretty things to show-off for the whole world to see and be amazed by. While that’s worked for del Toro before in much better, well-told movies, Crimson Peak pales in comparison because there really isn’t much to the story other than just, “Yeah. Old-looking, English mansions can be spooky”.
And that about sums up the movie.
Although, to be fair, Crimson Peak isn’t without its strengths that make it a worthy affair to sit through, even when it seems to be treading water so much, that you wonder if it even had a story to begin with. As expected, it’s a very pretty, albeit scary-looking film. To say that the large, but old-timey mansion is its own character in the movie, is a total cliché; however, in this movie’s case, it’s the actual truth. As soon as Edith and the Sharpe relatives end up in this manor, the movie all of a sudden becomes more of a haunted house-feature that appreciates how dark the halls are, and how most people can’t tell what’s making that noise so late in the night. Del Toro loves to freak his audiences out and while the movie may not be all that scary, it still keeps you interested in what the mystery at the dead-center of the flick may be. Even if the actual reveal itself doesn’t deliver much on the promise, it still will keep you on-edge for a good portion.
Then again, this movie also got a huge problem in that it’s so slow and meandering, it doesn’t seem as if it’s going anywhere, anytime soon. While it’s fine that del Toro tends to take his time with his stories, so that he can develop characters, as well as their relationships with one another, so to create a more powerful effect when all goes South in the latter-portions, here, it seems like he’s taking too much time to get anywhere at all. Though it’s obvious he’s setting the movie up for a big, awfully creepy reveal at the end, the time it takes to hint at that, to when it actually gets there, is so long apart, that they almost feel like sequels to one another.
This wouldn’t be such a problem, either, had the characters been all that interesting to watch and see be fleshed-out, but they too feel stiff and boring.
Mia Wasikowska’s Edith may seems like the different kind of female protagonist we get in these kinds of movies, but after awhile, she just seems to fall back asleep and not really build this character. Tom Hiddleston is creepy as Thomas for a good portion of the movie, but because del Toro hints at something more complex and sweet about him, there’s a feeling of expecting more and we don’t really get it. And also, Charlie Hunnam shows up as one of Edith’s childhood friends from back home and feels like he just showed-up on the set, not just because he could, but almost as a favor to del Toro (they worked together in Pacific Rim).
The only one out the cast who seems to be enjoying the most of their time here is Jessica Chastain, in a surprisingly very campy, over-the-top performance. In the past few years since she’s become a big name, Chastain has been known to play these very serious, overly-dramatic characters that never seem to crack a smile, let alone know what an actual smile is; that’s not to say she isn’t a good actor in these kinds of roles, it’s just that it feels like she’s too stern and straight-faced, that it’s hard to imagine that she’s get anything resembling a personality deep in there. But as Lucille, she gets a chance to show just how wild and weird she can be, and can sometimes even elevate the movie to her standards. While it’s nice to see del Toro write a strong female character, it’s also nice to see him write one that isn’t trying too hard to be the heart and soul of the story – mostly, Lucille is the villain of the story and she’s a hard one to turn away from.
Which is, yes, a problem when she’s more interesting to watch than your protagonist.
Consensus: Crimson Peak may boast scary, gothic-y visuals, del Toro’s story never seems to take-off to the point of where it’s ultimately engaging or tense to watch play-out.
5.5 / 10