Crimson Peak (2015) – Guillermo del Toro

The first time I watched del Toro’s gothic tale I didn’t pay attention as much as I should and consequently, I grew bored with it. The advertising had made it look more akin to a horror film which is what I thought I wanted. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of lurid colors, and what initially felt like shifts in tone and style.

On a rewatch, I understood now that it’s not supposed to be a horror film or a ghost story. Mia Wasikowska’s character Edith Cushing says, it’s a story with ghosts in it, though they are creepily realized.

Owing as much to the gothic novels and stories of yesteryear as much to the vibrant colors used in Hammer Films and horror tales like Eerie Comics, Crimson Peak is an unnerving tale of love, loss, madness, and horror.

Edith has dreams of being a writer, though her sex is very much against her in New York at the end of the 19th century. Her father (Jim Beaver) is a wealthy man who loves and is very protective of his daughter. When the baronet, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) arrives in New York seeking financing for his mining project, Edith is lovestruck and a romance springs up between the two, much to her father’s upset.

When her father dies (murdered!) there is nothing to come between Thomas and Edith, not even his strange sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain) and the family returns to England, and Allerdale Hall. Built atop the mine of red clay that Thomas is eager to cash in on, the decaying mansion is sinking into the clay which causes the walls to appear to bleed and the ground turns red underfoot.

But there are secrets in the walls and depths of Allerdale Hall and Edith has been warned about coming there. She sees things on occasion and even as Lucille works to steal Edith’s money from her, she encounters the ethereal and terrifying residents of Allerdale Hall and begins to learn the truth.

The strong use of color and the way images are framed throughout the film give a spooky feel to everything that is going on. The scares that the ghosts provide work brilliantly and are an integral part of Edith’s narrative.

There is a lot going on at every level of this story. This isn’t something you can throw on in the background. You need to watch and pay attention, catch the little details. Each new revelation adds to the narrative and impacts it.

I really enjoyed it this time around, and wish that it had been marketed properly the first time around. Course, that being said, del Toro is one of my favorite directors. I’ll be there for everything he does.

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