Saturday evening, October 24th, we went to see Crimson Peak, it being the right season for a ghost story. Crimson Peak is such a story in which, as Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) tells us in the first line, “ghosts are real.”
The story, written by Guillermo Del Toro and Matthew Robbins, is a proper old-style Gothic thriller, which Mrs. Radcliffe or “Monk” Lewis would have been proud of, had they been able and willing to put the occasional gory killing directly on stage.
When the plot proper begins, Edith is the bluestocking daughter of Buffalonian businessman Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), she meets and is attracted to penurious nobleman Sir Thomas Sharpe, Bart., (Tom Hiddleston) who is seeking to raise money to continue work on his prototype excavating machine, with which he hopes to restore the family fortunes, which rest (literally) upon played-out deposits of a rare clay.
Cushing puts a stop to courtship after having a detective dig into Sharpe’s past, but his objections are ended by his sudden death, and Sharpe consoles the grieving Edith by making her his bride.
The remainder of the story plays out in England, at the Sharpe’s ruinous Gothic monstrosity of a mansion, which sits alone in an empty landscape in one of England’s most desolate regions. Sharpe’s brooding sister, Lucille, (Jessica Chastain), is a resentful presence, and Edith is soon haunted by the ominous and grisly spectres of the hall’s past.
The story very stylishly plays to its somewhat Grand Guignol climax along themes that are equal parts Edgar Allen Poe and Charles Perrault. While there are some plot holes, much can be forgiven for the fine acting, marvelous cinematography, horrific special effects, strikingly eerie sets, luscious costumes, and very good acting. I will admit that Del Toro does not admit logic as a barrier to effect. For example, the Hall is shown as sitting in an empty plain, with a single November-bare tree in sight. Nevertheless, autumn leaves continuously drift down through the gaping hole in the atrium roof, until they are at last replaced with snow. The bloody-colored clay that causes the area to be known as “Crimson Peak” has supposedly been mined out of easy reach, but oozes through the manor floorboards and stains the snow red around the house.
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While we didn’t find Crimson Peak to be particularly thrilling or shocking (with a couple of exceptions), we were just pleased and amused to see someone tell a story that aspires to stand with The Fall of the House of Usher, or The Mysteries of Udolpho, in this day and age. Recommended for those who enjoy an occasional infusion of the Gothic, the melodramatic, or the weird.