The trailers for Crimson Peak are much scarier than the film itself, which is a plus for some, a minus for others. Regardless of how thrilling you find Crimson Peak, the visuals are stellar, and Mia Waikowski’s costumes as writer Edith Cushing are beyond compare. However, the story is a bit thin, like the oily bloodlike clay that only exists in this Victorian nightmare.
The house itself is real, in a sense. It was built from scratch on Pinewood Toronto Studios true to writer-director Guillermo del Toro’s detailed specifications. The rooms were colored for specific moods, and the walls have the word “fear” incorporated into them. Del Toro even ordered two different sizes of certain furtunure pieces to fit different atmospheres. Even that death cage of an elevator really works. Del Toro has described the film as a “moving painting,” and that’s exactly what it is. The attention to detail really pops, and every frame is a visual love affair.
The ghosts turn out to be spooky, but they are not the young novelist’s enemies. Their visitations are an attempt warn her about the sinister people she’s living with. Frankly Edith’s husband and his sister are acting strange and cold enough on their own; having ghosts tell her what is already pretty obvious is overkill.
The pulse of the story is really romance instead of horror, a point that del Toro has emphasized in multiple interviews. The spell of the incestuous and murder-fueled love between the Sharpe siblings is broken when Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) starts to fall for one of the women the pair have been luring to their ghastly, falling down mansion.
The Sharpes are kind of like vampires, sucking girls dry one by one. As young teens, they murdered their mother after she discovered they were lovers, and then proceeded to convince rich, young women from different countries who had lost their families to marry the darkly dashing Thomas. Once they sign over their money, they are killed, usually with Lucille (Jessica Chasten)’s poisoned tea (or porridge, or whatever she can slip her poison into.)
Edith discovers that before they perish, the three women who have come before her recorded damning evidence on cutting edge Edison records. Instead of destroying all evidence of their conquests, the siblings kept these soundbites along with photographs and other tidbits hidden away in the secret basement chamber that houses bubbling pits of the house’s oily clay.
The Sharpe siblings’s search for sustenance seems never-ending. They’ve been unable to scratch up enough blood money to patch up a gaping hole middle of their sinking, house. The results of the hole, however, are cinematic pleasure. Snow drifts in the hole, forming a glistening soft patch to fall. Although the house is atop a treeless hill, leaves still manage to drift in constantly, as if they, too, are falling from clouds.
Edith is different from the other girls not only in that she gets Thomas to actually fall for her, but also in that she’s the only one who has anyone outside the house who cares enough to do a little digging into the history of her new love.
The end result is a series of show-downs that involve that well-placed patch of snow and a long series of stabbings. Although Thomas has a bit of a pulse of life beyond the Allerdale madness, Lucille’s intense malice makes her two-dimensional. Her love for Thomas is a sick, deep obsession, but there seems to be nothing more to her or her life than that. After she learns of Thomas’ soft heart towards Edith, she kills him, including a laceration through the cheek that results in a single, bloody tear. Thomas is crying blood just like the house weeps blood-red clay.
The ghost of Thomas ends up saving Edith, who’s limping around on a broken leg, and has to fend off a stab-weakened Lucille armed with giant cleaver. Lucille can’t resist turning around to see Thomas’ ghost. It’s unclear if she actually does, but at the point she turns around, it seems she’s resigned herself to joining him. If her obsession with Thomas was fueling her life, what does she have to live for anymore, anyway.
The last scene shows the ghostly Lucille playing her piano in the midst of her crumbling house. While the ghosts who used to haunt Allerdale were benign, even helpful, there’s no doubt that Lucille’s ghost is still hungry for blood.
If you’ve enjoyed this post, please show your support by sharing this link. You can also support this blog and help it keep running by contributing to Patreon. Every share and cent is much appreciated!