Crimson Peak
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Crimson Peak

As a longtime fan of horror and found myself missing a good old fashion ghost story. Certainly, many movies are dealing with spectral antagonists overwhelming the living with fear but too many instances the filmmakers have decided to modernize the genre by sitting in the current period in the all too often used plot contrivance of electronic devices to detect, analyze and record ghostly appearances. The horror story I’m referring to is the Gothic horror tale. Although defined by a considerable number of requisite archetypes and memes they aptly provide a scaffold upon which a myriad of original ideas can be crafted. After so many attempts to redefine the ghost story in franchises such as ‘Paranormal Activities ‘and ‘V-H-S’ a filmmaker with a proven talent for the supernatural, Guillermo Del Toro, a much-appreciated return traditional Gothic horror in his film, ‘Crimson Peak.' Even before I was aware of the thematic inducement for this film I was intrigued by the cast. With such proven performers as Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam and Mia Wasikowska I just had to see what an of actors known for such a diverse selection of character would interact with each other and I was not disappointed in the least. The icing on the cake was that it was a period piece set at the turn of the 20th century, on the heels of the Victorian era. Considering the amount of talent plying their craps on both sides of the timbre, admittedly the film did have some flaws which are most notable if you approach watching this movie in a critical frame of mind rather than a true fan of the genre.

Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) was the daughter of the wealthy American businessman, Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) and as the story opened in 1887 Edith is visited by the ghost of her mother who has appeared to give her daughter ominous warning; "beware of Crimson Peak." Stepping ahead 14 years Edith is now an aspiring writer whose editor demands romance novels, a category of literature Edith prefers not to produce. Out of necessity, Edith finds that she must reconcile herself to such requests. She would much rather spend all my time on a personal side project, the creation ghost stories. It is at this time that Edith encountered the English baronet, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Sir Thomas is in the United States seeking investors in his project regarding clay mining. Edith’s father is among the potential investors that said Thomas is meeting with. Unfortunately for Thomas Carter Cushing did not become rich and powerful by being induced to invest in such risky ventures. Caught a resource for a man not only unimpressed by regal titles he had an absolute disdain for the aristocracy that was insufficient reason to reject is proposal Thomas’ condescending attitude was something that Carter could not abide.

Edith is a keen observer and notices is somewhat disturbing detail about Thomas and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), both are attired in suitably expensive garments but they are afraid is not currently in fashion. After the meeting once again Edith is visited by some of his ghost delivering the same message. The initial rebuff does not dissuade sir Thomas remains to determine to gain the financial support of Carter; an objective that he feared might be helped as he developed a romantic relationship with Edith. Such an association is not objectionable to her father but also Edith’s childhood friend, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam). The cursing hires a private detective who is easily able to acquire through of the unscrupulous nature of said Thomas and his sister. Cushing offers a bride to said Thomas immediately return to England which she immediately takes although his breakup with Edith was abrupt and cruel. Before he has a chance to return to England Thomas Sentinel Edith explaining how her father coerced him to leave. Shortly after that, Carter Cushing murdered although the official cause of death was listed as accidental. This deep-seated free to marry Thomas and travel to England with him. A new home was Allerdale Hall, a mansion that is far past his shoulders prime is fallen into a state of shabbiness. The most obvious feature of the house is that it is built upon the remains of an old red clay mine. Because of this, the more common name for the structure is ‘Crimson Peak.'

Typical of a well-constructed graphic horror story greater care must be given to laying the foundation of the characters in describing the location with intense consideration to detail. The house was built in its entirety and completely furnished with objects created for use in the film. No to actual items of the period were used which might be considered a strange but apparently Mr. del Toro demanded complete control over every aspect of the set. Considering how crucial the setting is in Gothic horror this is altogether appropriate. It is difficult to create a modernized variation of this particular subset of horror is there is usually a critically be isolation. The audience must feel that the protagonist as the left her own devices without a means to call for help. In an age of cell phones, the screenwriter must be able to take this into account realistically. The typical Monday an excuse is a statement that they are too remote for a signal. Such blatant contrivances are neatly avoided by placing the story in the early 1900s.

Edith eventually uncovers clues that can lead to the only conclusion possible that her new husband and sister-in-law are people with a nefarious modus operandi. Thomas has the habit of marrying rich women who succumb to fatal poisonings. This explains the unusual congregation ghost within the manor and went Edith begins coughing up the blood of fears of history repeating itself once again all well founded. To into the mix of incest and a cursed child you have established every major requirement for Gothic horror. One potential downside is that a sufficient number of coincidental events that require such precision in sequencing as to diminish the credibility of those plot points. Those who subscribe to such objections should remember that such elements are frequently utilized in many types of horror stories. What is important is that the major precepts upheld. Gothic horror must contain an ill-fated romance, a detail that is handled here in near perfection. The audience knows that there’s something wrong with Sir Thomas from his introduction. Having the actor who achieved critical acclaim playing the Norse God of mischief does serve to put the audience in a predisposed state of mind to not trust his character. I know the previous role should it matter defectives that in the minds of the audience they do and inevitably is considered during the casting process. Ultimately it was Mr. Huddleston’s exceptional talent and experience that permitted him to bring this character to life as a fully realized human being consisting of several personality facets. Another exceptional actor is Charlie Hunnam. He has an intensity that is rarely seen that he brings to every role he undertakes. After seven years playing in the angst-ridden president of a motorcycle gang is only natural that he would seek a film that would showcase the diversity of his abilities. Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain has an amazing range of her talent which permitted her to master roles requiring her to become everything for me free-spirited often to a CIA operative. Despite her youth, Mia Wasikowska has been a working actress for over a decade. She is given incredible performances portraying such eclectic characters whose requirements range from the powerfully dramatic to those who sheer whimsy. This is just the kind of movie that is ideal for a dark and stormy night.

bulletDeleted Scenes
bulletI Remember Crimson Peak
bulletA Primer on Gothic Romance
bulletThe Light and Dark of Crimson Peak
bulletHand Tailored Gothic
bulletA Living Thing
bulletBeware of Crimson Peak
bulletCrimson Phantoms
bulletFeature Commentary with Co-Writer / Director Guillermo del Toro

Posted 02/04/2016                Posted 09/25/2017

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