A ghost has been scaring Edith (Wasikowska) all her life. It keeps telling her to avoid the ‘Crimson Peak’ and all it ever takes the form of is a wispy, spidery being making strange faces and banging things into her. No wonder Edith doesn’t pay much attention to its mutterings.
That’s the generous answer. For little else makes sense in this visually rich film from that director of horror excess Guillermo del Toro, that has ideas as wispy thin as the ghost — or is it ghosts? — that populates it.
Edith is a girl at that age when they “come into society”, born to a wealthy American businessman, living in times where a whole town gathers to see the perfect “European waltz”. She also is a serious writer with leftist ideas, all of which are quickly shed when in comes to town an English ‘baronet’, Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), with his desperately mysterious sister, Lucille (Chastain).
Edith’s father makes a calculated guess about the duo’s intentions, but of course she doesn’t believe any of it. He is murdered, soon after he has made his objections to a union between Edith and Thomas clear, and still Edith doesn’t suspect much.
The couple get married soon after, and Edith realises what she has got into only after they have landed at the Sharpe’s decaying mansion in England. It has a roof with a hole in it, and a floor through which blood-red clay seeps inside. And yet Edith doesn’t want more than “keys to the house”. All she gets is a colder look from Lucille.
Del Toro packs the film with a lot of flowing velvet, lot of bright colours, lot of shadows, lot of creaking corridors, lot of ghostly apparitions, and a story that becomes more and more implausible as it crawls its way towards a hilarious (unintentionally) end.
As red turns up everywhere — and not in a very good way — you realise the ghost wasn’t kidding. About this being a crimson peak.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam