A return to form (of sorts) from the master of horror.
In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author (Mia Wasikowska) is torn between love for her childhood friend (Charlie Hunnam) and the temptation of a mysterious outsider (Tom Hiddleston). Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds and remembers.
As soon as the blood soaked Universal logo flooded the screen, escorted with the creepy children’s choir singing, I was transfixed. A wonderfully Gothic opening ticked all the boxes for me. Suspenseful, menacing and eerily beautiful as a young Edith (Wasikowska – Stoker) receives a spooky warning from her dead mother. The effects were fantastic.
The first act was slow burning BUT watchable as we flash forward to a now twenty something Edith striving to make a career as a writer. Dan Laustsen’s cinematography was stunning to look at. It really captured the epic and lavish set designs. The Pride and Prejudice melodrama with Edith trying to avoid marriage was a little cliched and slackened the pace BUT it was entertaining enough.
Charlie Hunnam’s Dr McMichael (Sons of Anarchy) was weak. I’m sure his bashful crime enthusiast was supposed to make the charismatic Sharpe look more appealing. BUT his character didn’t have to be such a drip. His Sherlock inspired ramblings didn’t get things going either.
As soon as the illustrious Thomas Sharpe made his introduction, my interest was properly Peak-ed. Tom Hiddleston (Only Lovers Left Alive) played the mysterious count with aplomb. Charming his way straight into Edith’s heart. The whirlwind romance and shotgun wedding was a little rushed. BUT luckily there was always a bigger plan afoot.
And once Sharpe’s strange sister (played by the ever talented Jessica Chastain – Mama) was brought into the mix, I was in for a suspenseful middle act. The whispering, the glances, Chastain’s cold demeanour. Once her muddled English accent was tuned, she was brilliant. She worked well with Hiddleston and the pair made a notorious duo.
It was everything I expected from the moment Edith stepped foot in Alderdale Hall. A wonderfully Gothic setting. A dilapidated manor with a haunting presence complete with rotten mould, decay and dead bugs. It wasn’t long (Thankfully) before things went bump in the night. It was hypnotic viewing. The mystery behind the Sharpes and the house kept me intrigued. The long Shining-esque hallways, the cold dark passages, the scuttling crimson soaked skeletons. Creepy. Brilliant.
BUT for all the mystery and suspense, I was left wanting. After all that build up and Del Toro toying with us, the big reveal was a little disappointing and predictable. Tragically, the final minutes were also a little laughable with Edith squealing and flailing around the ‘Crimson Peak’ estate. A shame considering the picturesque winter setting. The snow bludgeoned with crimson clay. Or was it?
The supernatural element was the redeeming feature as the ghosts desperately try to relay messages to Edith. The unearthing of the puzzle was fun enough as we tried to suss out Sharpe’s intentions. A little twist about the Sharpes was certainly different BUT it only created more holes in the already wafer thin plot. It was never really explained properly. A shame after all that promise.
This is a vast improvement from Del Toro and a return to form (of sorts) after the monstrosity that was Pacific Rim and the Fringe inspired vampire TV series The Strain. Crimson Peak was a wonderfully shot old fashioned Victorian horror story. The leading cast were superb, the cinematography was to die for.
BUT the pace meandered along and the end result just didn’t quite deliver a satisfying enough climax after all that promise. Watchable though.