In a climate of viscerally gory horror films made purely for shock value, it’s very rare to see a film that embodies a more subtle approach to horror, and it’s even rarer to see a film of such visual and atmospheric splendour. Crimson Peak is very much an old-fashioned gothic horror tale woven onto the silver screen. Indeed, this is essentially Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to gothic horror literature, complete with the period setting and characters, romance with sinister overtones, and the grand yet decaying ancestral house in an ominously beautiful landscape.
Of course, the first quarter of the film tends to meander a bit with the inevitable frivolity that comes with the film’s setting, but as the film progresses and the plot thickens, the context behind everything that came at the beginning soon becomes clear. The intricately woven story of ghosts, romance and murder is formed so well that by the end, you’re left hungry for more. That being said, the film is more of a romantic film than a horror film, and it’s unique in that sense, for it bleeds with the distinctive character that Guillermo del Toro gives to his films.
The film also shows some classy performances from a charming cast of characters, and the best of these performances came from Tom Hiddleston, whose character exudes a mysterious mix of romantic charm, sinister motive, and a guilt-riddled conscience. He’s the kind of character who feels chained down by his family name, primarily because to preserve it, he has to do awful things that, as evidenced later on in the film, he doesn’t appear to care much about, and this multi-faceted character is ultimately the film’s real star. Of course, it would be terribly glib of me to not give any credit to the rest of the cast. Mia Wasikowska performs very well as the heroine of the story, in a role perhaps intended to echo the tradition of the gothic novel heroine, and the supporting cast members fit neatly in very well, though most of the characters tend to fade into the background, and for most of the film, only the three main characters (and their love triangle) will matter.
As one could expect from Guillermo del Toro’s work, the film’s visuals are fantastic. The film has an extremely classy sense of style, kicking off with a red-tinted Universal logo, opening with a very white and wintry prologue scene, and it gets even better as the film’s setting slowly moves towards its climax. On the whole, the amazing set-pieces, locations, and chilling atmosphere make up the film’s crown jewels, and it is especially the film’s atmosphere that sets the tone for a quite bone-chilling experience. This is perhaps the ideal strong point of a set-oriented film such as this. I should also give some of my adulation to Kate Hawley’s exquisite costume designs, which sometimes evoke a subtle Alexander McQueen vibe. Though the film itself is no classic, it’s a real tour de force, and it’s certainly a stylish cut above the other horror films in the market.
- Score: 78%
- Grade: B