Guillermo Del Toro has probably read more novels than David Cameron has gone back on his promises. He also collaborated with legendary game auteur Hideo Kojima because he fully immerses himself in whatever interests him. In short; he’s a massive fucking nerd.
This is exactly why I love him. Del Toro holds so much reverence, knowledge and enthusiasm for his source material that it often translates to something special on screen.
This is never more true than when he is making his subversive fairy tales. Crimson peak is Same Same. If you don’t know this amusing Thai term it actually means ‘same same but different’.
Crimson Peak has all the trademarks of a Guillermo Del Toro film including a lack of CGI for a start. There is a lot of enhanced imagery but the core aspects of the film are all real. Allerdale Hall; the house situated atop crimson peak, is probably the most special. I couldn’t tell you if this was a masterfully built set or an actual house somewhere but every time the film treats you to shots of the entrance hallway you can’t help but sit there in amazement of the craftsmanship.
It’s the same story with the immaculate costumes within the film. You can almost see every thread from the painstakingly stitched and embroidered lace, cloth and silk. Each of the main characters could be placed directly into masquerades ball if only they had a mask. I really can’t praise them high enough.
You then have the ghosts which are actually real actors who have been enhanced by CGI to have parts of their skulls cratered in, or their limbs and digits extruded into spindly cords of supernatural menace. Their aggressive movements and the way they phase in and out of the physical realm makes them more wraith-like than an innocuous specter.
This brings to life the fairy tail sensibilities that Del Toro is famed for but it’s not quite the same same as Pan’s Labyrinth or Cronos it’s actually very different.
Crimson Peak is actually a Gothic romance borrowing just about as much from Wuthering Heights as it does from the House on Haunted Hill. I found this very surprising as the trailers suggest it’s a pure ghost story.
I suppose I should have listened to our heroine Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) who routinely tells us that she is writing stories that happen to have ghosts and not ghost stories as this imitates Crimson Peak’s storyline perfectly. It’s not necessarily what I wanted though.
This leaves the ghosts to be a few mere blots in a bigger connect the dots puzzle. They crop up at a few key points but they lack resolution leaving their involvement in the events of the film all but irrelevant by the end of the film.
Instead, the audience are meant to get wrapped up in the burgeoning love affair between Edith and Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) as well as Thomas’ slightly odd relationship with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). I’m not sure that ever truly happens.
The film falls foul of the same problems that films like Sense and Sensibility have: time. Time has moved on. It’s no longer a shock to show sex on screen so it clearly won’t be a shock when someone states that ‘one is favourable to one’s fancy’ or to flash an ankle or to turn up at a ball without a handkerchief – the horror!
I know some people will really like this traditional approach but for me, and probably many others, it’s as stuffy as a build-a-bear workshop.
At least the moral high ground isn’t this traditional. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Edith grows from a fiercely modern but slightly feeble lady of privilege grow into a strong and independent lady. By the end of the film she doesn’t have to rely on a strong and handsome man to save little old her.
I was a bit disappointed with the ending because there are no surprises. The film has the opportunity take one of many dark and bitter turns that would have provided a devilishly fitting end to this twisted love story but sadly it doesn’t take them.
That’s not to say it’s a bad ending, it’s just not as good as it could have been. It’s pretty much how I feel about the whole film. A love story wasn’t quite what I was expecting but the homage that is paid to Gothicism and the supernatural provide a beautiful looking but fucked up fairy tale that’s not Del Toro’s best… A fairlytale if you will.
- Guillermo Del Toro’s fairy tale
- The House, the costumes, the ghosts are all stunning
- Mia Wasikowska
- Lack of ghosts
- The romance
- Missed opportunity ending