With Crimson Peak, Del Toro’s take on the Gothic horror genre largely delivers, even though it lacks the most memorable qualities of the director’s auteur
Guillermo Del Toro’s latest directorial venture, Crimson Peak, sees him return to his avant-garde horror form following his last apocalyptic flick, Pacific Rim. Bleak and eerie, this gothic creation has been unleashed in cinemas just in time for Hallowe’en. So, does Del Toro’s most star-studded Hollywood fare live up to the hype?
The film is aesthetically stunning, from the exquisite sets and costumes to the atmospheric music and crisp cinematography; the film will be a visual treat to period drama lovers. This is perhaps one of the biggest victories of this film, that Del Toro manages to masterfully switch between the lightheartedness of a period piece in some earlier scenes and the chilly ambiance of a classical horror. The film emphasises this contrast through the characters of the bright and kind Edith Cushing (played by Mia Wasikowska) and the gloomy mysterious siblings (played by Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain).
As far as the actors are concerned, Wasikowska delivers a natural performance as the strong and wilful heroine, and has palpable chemistry with Tom Hiddleston, who excels during the film’s intense scenes. Jessica Chastain, who has received all award nominations Hollywood has to offer at this point, impresses, especially in her emotional scenes. Her rather inconsistent British accent, however, can be distracting at times. Even Charlie Hunnam manages to make an impression in his small role.
The downside, on the other hand, is that the dialogue can be quite subpar at times and the plot is stretched thin over two hours. Still, the grotesque thrills that Del Toro’s smoke-and-bone ghosts serve keep you on the edge of your seat for the final resolution. Although the film comes straight from the director’s own imagination, it unfolds like a classic gothic novel that could have easily come out of the mind of Edgar Allen Poe or Mary Shelley.
Another amusing upside to this film is the subversive nudity. A genre where it’s typical for the heroines to drop their robes to titillate the male audience, Del Toro keeps them covered from their necks to their ankles in elegant gowns and instead sheds the clothes of his hero. This may not seem like much, but still felt like a welcome departure from the tired trope.
Although this film may not carry an elaborate mythology like Del Toro’s Spanish-language horror flicks, it manages to string together a beautiful and emotional tale of love, revenge, and desperation.