Movie genres evolve over time but maintain their key elements to keep them in their respective categories. When it comes to horror movies, they have evolved, but these days seem to be stuck in a rut of two main categories: the “based on true events” category and the “whatever it takes to shock and disturb”. Don’t even get me started on based on true events stories. All they need is a single thread and they will weave a whole tale and call it truth. What many horror movies these days have left behind in their search to gain recognition for blood and gore; is the actual story itself.
The year is 1887. Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), daughter of wealthy businessman, Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), is an aspiring writer. Having lost her mother at a young age, Edith has been raised primarily by her father. A stubborn young lady who is quite different from the other girls her age, instead of writing love stories as her editor suggests, she has begun penning a ghost story. The film opens with Edith’s revelation that ghosts are in fact real. Taking us back to the time of her mothers death, she is visited by her mother, cloaked in black, warning Edith to beware of Crimson Peak. The vision terrified young Edith and has stayed with her for many years. She is visited by her mother again in the present, giving the same vague warning of Crimson Peak, leaving Edith completely baffled as to it’s meaning.
When Edith hears of the arrival of the handsome Baronet, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), she is quick to judge him solely on his title and shows little interest compared to the other ladies in town. Sir Thomas Sharpe is an inventor from England in search of funding for his clay mining machine. Reaching out to Carter Cushing, Sharpe is rejected for his entitled ways and sent away without funding, but not before he has met the young Edith Cushing, sparking his interest. The two begin a relationship, despite her fathers warnings. To support his feelings, Mr. Cushing hires a private investigator, uncovering some very unsavoury details of Sir Sharpe and his sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain). In an attempt to save his daughter, Cushing bribes the two Sharpes to leave town immediately and to break his daughters heart thoroughly. Sir Sharpe holds up his end of the deal before leaving town, leaving Edith crushed. The next day, Mr. Cushing is found dead, ruled as an accident, but Edith’s childhood friend and Mr.Cushing’s physician Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) find the state of his corpse to be far from an accident.
With no family left, Edith marries Sir Thomas Sharpe, leaving America to go live with him and his sister in their rundown mansion called Allerdale Hall. The mansion is cold and falling apart, surrounding by it’s distinct red dirt, Sir Sharpe hopes his invention will bring the family’s homestead and reputation back to it’s former glory. Edith’s health begins to deteriorate, waking up in fits and coughing blood. When she wakes to find Thomas gone, she explores the house as disturbing ghosts haunt her every turn. She soon uncovers the secrets of Allerdale Hall and the need to escape, but her health has made it impossible to leave.
Although the description I’ve given is lengthy and detailed, there are many more details left out so as not to ruin the story. Crimson Peak is a gothic horror film, which puts most of it’s efforts in the storyline and visuals, making the ghosts more of an after thought than a main story piece. Because of this you almost question it’s standing as a horror movie compared to those that come out these days. The story begins in America, rich in details but more subtle than gawking. Once the story moves to England the visuals increase drastically. The towering peaks of Allerdale Hall with his caved in ceiling, rotting walls and red dirt give the mansion a cold and disturbing appearance, but completely full of magic and wonder at the same time. The hole in the ceiling causes leaves, debris and snow to fall gently down the many stories to land in a small pile in front of a roaring fire. The red dirt causing the water in the pipes and cellar to turn a crimson red, even dripping down the wall at odd places throughout the house. Black moths flutter and cluster in the attics adding to the darkness and whimsy. Many of the elements are reminiscent to that of Pan’s Labyrinth, directed by the same, Guillermo del Toro, which if you haven’t seen is a must see.
Crimson Peak did not leave me in awe as some movies do, but running through the scenes and remembering all the details makes me want to see it again, making me realize just how much I enjoyed the film. From the moment I saw the trailer, I knew I wanted to see it, but I am disappointed that I have not hear any ravings or more positive reviews from others. Crimson Peak is a wonderful film that encompasses so many different tastes, and I think has been thoroughly overlooked. I’d love to hear your opinions on what you think, especially those who did not enjoy the film, because I find it difficult to see how you could.