A ghost story set in an eerie house is a challenge for any director simply because it’s been done to death. Guillermo Del Toro is definitely up for the challenge with his latest gothic tale, Crimson Peak. Del Toro weaves a story about a young lady named Edith, an aspiring author, who falls in love with a mysterious man: Thomas Sharpe. After a family tragedy, Edith is swept away to Thomas Sharpe’s unnerving house, where he lives with his sister Lucille. Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska star in this horror-filled flick.
Del Toro teams up with Matthew Robbins to write a script that’s effective enough to evoke moments of tension; however, there are many aspects of the story that feel contrived. At times, the story unfolds like a soap opera, and moments that are supposed to be disturbing become a bit diluted. Most of the interesting aspects in the story are telegraphed, so nothing is really a surprise.
Despite the weak delivery of this twisted tale, the visual effects are captivating. Del Toro and company create a lavishly creepy house that is alive, and the supernatural encounters are visually arresting. Every frame is aesthetically pleasing, which is expected from a Del Toro film. The production design and effects keep this film from sinking, along with a some strong performances.
Tom Hiddleston turns in another driven performance as the mysterious Thomas Sharpe, a man obsessed with his mechanized clay mining invention. Hiddleston plays the willful inventor very well, but transitions to a menacing threat and hopeless romantic very naturally. He dances through his character’s evolution with ease. Jessica Chastain, who plays Lucille, also gives an amazing performance. Chastain’s portrayal of Lucille is bold and commanding, almost enough to make up for the weak script. Mia Wasikowska plays Edith, and does a solid job, yet is overshadowed by Hiddleston and Chastain, who seem to be inadvertently competing for the spotlight.
Crimson Peak is definitely not Del Toro’s best work, but it’s not a complete waste of time either. Despite the scripts weaknesses, Del Toro still manages to project how love has the potential to be an even more monstrous emotion than hate.