Crimson Peak is a new horror film from famed Director and Writer Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pacific Rim, Pan’s Labyrinth). I, for one, am a huge fan of Pacific Rim and can’t wait for the sequel. Crimson Peak stars Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland (2010)), Jessica Chastain (The Martian, Interstellar, Zero Dark Thirty), and Tom Hiddleston (Thor, Avengers, and the upcoming Kong: Skull Island), along with Charlie Hunnam (Pacifc Rim, Sons of Anarchy).
Crimson Peak Summary
The film takes place during the late 19th century, beginning in the United States and then spending the second half of the film in England. In short, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) joins Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) at their old, run down mansion in England. The whole story is odd to me, but here’s the basic rundown with spoilers. Edith comes from money, lots of it. Her father was a hardworking man who has made something of his life and in turn, Thomas Sharpe comes to America in search of money. The Sharpe family had money at one point but it long since gone, their home literally falling apart back in England. Thomas Sharpe has a plan to get money rolling back in using the red clay under his property but he needs funding for his excavation machine. Edith’s father turns down his proposal. Meanwhile, Thomas takes an interest in Edith. Things seem nice at first but, long story short, Edith’s father uncovers incriminating evidence against Thomas and tells him to break Edith’s heart and leave, even paying him a decent sum of money to do so. Then, not surprisingly, Edith’s father is murdered in the wash room by an unknown figure… we are to assume it’s Thomas or his sister Lucille. Edith quickly marries Thomas. In fact, it seems that she does so before the funeral even occurs but either way, she moves to England, selling off everything she and her father owned and is in the process of transferring his family’s wealth into Thomas’s name for use on the excavation equipment, theoretically.
Now that we are at the mansion, creepy things happen. Edith sees ghosts, terrible ghosts, which are portrayed in a very unique way. We quickly figure out that a lot of murder has occurred in this home and Edith is becoming ill, likely due to some kind of poison. Meanwhile, back in the United States, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), who had taken an interest in Edith, is not convinced that Carter Cushing’s death was an accident but apparently no one else cared to investigate. More on that later. McMichael leaves the U.S. to find and presumably rescue Edith. During this time, Edith discovers that she is in fact being poisoned via her tea that is prepared by Lucille and that Lucille and Thomas have been planning this murder all along. What’s more important is that we finally find out that this mansion is Crimson Peak. Why is this important? When Edith was a child, the ghost of her mother came to her and warned her to beware of Crimson Peak. She doesn’t discover this nickname until it’s far too late and she is quite ill.
Thomas begins to have doubts about the murder because he has fallen in love with Edith. We find out that Thomas was married before and that at least three other woman have been targets of this nature, all now dead. THEN we find out that Thomas and his sister Lucille have an intimate, sexual relationship between the two of them, even producing a child at one point… which Lucille murders. Alright, so Dr. McMichael shows up, tries to take Edith away but is stabbed by Lucille. Thomas then takes advantage of the situation to pretend to kill McMichael to he can save Edith. Thomas is killed by his own sister in a fit of rage. The final battle, so to speak, takes place out in the snow between Edith and Lucille, with McMichael slowing bleeding out in the mines. Edith is victorious thanks to a timely appearance of Thomas’s ghost, which distracts Lucille long enough for Edith to bash her head in with a shovel.
Okay, so that’s what happens.
What I Liked About Crimson Peak
Crimson Peak is a beautiful movie. The colors, the costumes, the digital effects of the ghosts, all beautiful. I love the time period and the style of the film. I truly felt part of that era and the characters felt at home in that time. The state of the mansion was never questioned. It was ready to fall apart. All of the sets were designed perfectly, though overly dramatic at times.
The acting was also pretty solid. I thought Jessica Chastain stole the show with her character being the most consistent and threatening. I also truly enjoyed Jim Beaver’s performance as Carter Cushing, as short as it was. He was perfect for the role and I’d wished he had survived if only to see him in another scene.
What I Disliked About Crimson Peak
I did not like this movie. I did not enjoy it and I would not watch it again. Why? There are several reasons. First, the whole plot is thin and illogical. Thomas Sharpe travels the world pretending to look for money and then winning over daughters from rich families. Then his sister dispatches with those families, forcing the daughter to be the heir to the fortunes. Thomas marries the woman and waits out Lucille to murder her in some way, usually poison. Let’s put aside how expensive it is to travel the world (the siblings had been to Italy, France, and the United States among other places), wouldn’t it be infinitely easier for Lucille, as a woman, to win over a single male with money? Second, they are only in this situation because they refuse to leave their family house which it turns out they hate anyway? All this while the siblings have a romantic relationship. Okay, let’s put that aside for a minute and focus on the murder of Carter Cushing. This is a decent sized man, nearing 60. He is preparing to shave in a fairly large wash room that has several attendants. While alone… completely, 100% alone for some reason, with no attendants anywhere in earshot… Lucille sneaks in (a woman in a men’s room in the 19th century) and is able to slam Cushing’s head against a sink not once but several times, literally crushing in the skull in more than one spot. Then, he is left dead on the floor, blood everywhere. She magically slips out. Then, no one wants to investigate the death. Everyone, except Dr. McMichael, believes Cushing slipped and hit his head….. half a dozen times and hard enough to not just knock himself out, or split his head open, but to literally crush an entire chunk of the skull, exposing the brain. Alright, let’s put that aside. Then, Edith quickly sells everything she and her father owned, marries Thomas and moves across the Atlantic, when not a week before, she was desperately trying to get her memoir published using every connection she had. Why did she give everything up so quickly? She was hurt and sad, of course, but she seemed very conscious and alert by the time she arrived in England. This decision seemed completely inconsistent with a character we are to believe is intelligent and level headed, though stubborn. Finally, everything is so contrived. They sell clay which turns the snow red which is why it’s called Crimson Peak. It’s the dead of winter, so the Post Office is closed and that’s the only building anywhere near Crimson Peak. No police officials or lawyers want to investigate the violent death of one of the most prominent men in the city but the doctor who just got back in town is a resident Sherlock Holmes… which is also referenced early in the film for, I suppose, foreshadowing. Everything is so heavy handed. Edith’s memoir includes ghosts but it’s not a ghost story. The ghosts are just a metaphor for the past. Guess what? That’s actually the synopsis for the film she is in. Crimson Peak has ghosts but it’s not a ghost story. They are there to warn about the past.
Crimson Peak Conclusion
In the end, it’s a wonderfully beautiful film that falls flat for its contrived, heavy handed, ridiculous plot. The actors are solid with Chastain stealing the show. If you love horror films, you might enjoy some aspects of this movie but if you take a minute to think about the plot and everything that it takes to get you to the climax and resolution, you’ll realize that this is a poorly orchestrated story.
I give it 2 poisoned cups of tea out of 5.
What did you think of Crimson Peak? Comment below with your thoughts!