Gothic Melodrama lives again in Del Toro’s newest project
By Leah Ching, Staff Writer
Guillermo del Toro’s latest cinematic endeavour Crimson Peak premiered last week with mixed reviews from critics and moviegoers alike. Despite an all-star cast including Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, and Mia Wasikowska, the film proved to be a tough sell at the box office. The film centres on Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) a young woman who can see spirits, and Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), a mysterious British aristocrat with whom she soon falls in love. After this seductive stranger steals Cushing’s heart, she is swept away to a house that lies on a mountain of crimson red clay.
The film was largely marketed as a dark horror film, with the trailer highlighting Del Toro’s eerie visuals, ghosts, and Cushing’s quest to uncover the darkness that lies at Crimson Peak. The visuals were unforgettable to say the least. Set in the Victorian Era, the ghosts at the Sharpe mansion offer chilling moments of fright for viewers. With beautiful colour schemes and carefully thought out production design, Thomas E. Sanders dark and colourful sets were a thrilling beauty to behold, and were inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
Most critics hail it as not being Del Toro’s best film, and falls short in its story line, leaving the viewer with a bittersweet feeling in the end. Still, the movie featured stellar performances from the cast, with particular attention being drawn to the brilliant acting of Jessica Chastain, and most viewers wishing she was more central to the plot. Critics largely argue that Chastain’s character not being central to the plot speaks multitudes about the film’s writing itself, that the characters only end up being beautiful props alongside the set design and ghosts wandering through.
Many horror fiends will be disappointed as Crimson peak isn’t exactly the gruelling ghost film it was made out to be in it’s marketing campaign, but Del Toro describes the film as a Gothic Romance, a cinematic attempt to channel a dead genre.
Tom Hiddleston elaborated in an interview with PBS about the history of the genre, explaining, “the time that Gothic Romance came around in the development of literature, it was a very rebellious Genre. It was a way of expressing things about society in the eighteenth century that were repressed, which were sexuality and the fear of death…There is always a young heroine, who’s drawn out of love towards something very dangerous. And so these two forces of love and death are at war with each other in Gothic Romance.”
Wasikowska’s performance as the innocent young heroine was well complimented by Hiddleston’s truly sexy performance as the mysterious and perhaps dangerous Mr. Sharpe. Chastain, in her supporting role, often overshadows the acting of them both as Thomas’ sister Lucile, a woman who embodies the dark secrets and repressed emotions of Crimson Peak.
With plot twists and turns unravelling throughout the film, moviegoers should see Crimson Peak with an open mind, acknowledging that it is a bold feat by Del Toro, and provides a delightfully creepy atmosphere of stunning visuals coupled with a twisted and tragic love story that is sure to leave a lasting impression.