Very few filmmakers in the world possess a style of filmmaking quite as unique as Guillermo del Toro’s. Throughout his career, del Toro has maintained an aesthetic that is not only visually sublime, but also beautiful and oddly creepy. You can tell it’s a Guillermo del Toro movie just by glancing at the film’s sets or costume design. However, I’ve always found his films severely lacking when it comes to presenting a strong narrative, and it’s something that’s showed when he’s taken on big-budget movies like Hell Boy and Pacific Rim.
With Crimson Peak, del Toro attempts to return to the gothic genre, the genre which served as the launching pad for his career. The film, despite being marketed as a horror movie, is actually more gothic romance than anything else and set in 1887 it follows the story of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring author who in the aftermath of a family tragedy falls in love with and marries Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a mysterious stranger and comes to live with him and his sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain) in their home, Allerdale Hall. However, she soon finds out it is a place filled with secrets that will haunt her forever.
What’s great about Crimson Peak is that it sucks you in with the atmosphere. The film isn’t scary in slightest bit, but the atmosphere is so darn intoxicating that it always keeps you, at the very least, engaged. The film also happens to be gorgeously shot, like any other del Toro movie and the stunningly crafted production design feels like a character of its own.
The performances are fairly good too. Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam all do good work but Jessica Chastain disappoints in an unnecessarily over-the-top performance. But despite the serviceable performances, it’s the poor characterization that really lets the actors down because none of them seems to be written with having any depth.
And that’s the biggest problem with Crimson Peak, the writing. del Toro certainly does a good job of establishing the story, but once he establishes it, he doesn’t really do much with it. At almost the half-point of the film, it descends into clichés and predictability and while there’s no denying that there are some great moments in there, the conclusion feels underwhelming and rushed.
Altogether, Crimson Peak is a classic case of style over substance resulting in a hollow experience that never fully reaches its potential. However, the style is at times, worth the price of the admission alone.