It may seem a tad simple to just sum up director and co-writer Guillermo del Toro’s newest movie Crimson Peak in a few words: Just not that good. But that’s the best way to say it, it seems. It just wasn’t all that good. And at this point, readers should be warned that there will be spoilers in this review, so if you don’t want the movie ruined for you any farther, stop reading now.
Anyway, to be honest, no, it isn’t quite as simple as saying Crimson Peak is just not that good. It did have one major plus going for it. From an aesthetic viewpoint, Crimson Peak is brilliant. It was a beautifully shot, incredibly detailed period piece, using intricate environments, props, and outfits that were truly spectacular. AV Club put it quite nicely in their review of Crimson Peak.
“Unsurprisingly for a Del Toro film, the production design is the real star of Crimson Peak; the director says his budget was $50 million, but it looks like it cost more. The attention to detail is consistently impressive, with period-accurate Victorian sets and jewel-toned lighting creating an aesthetic best described as ‘Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride as designed by Mario Bava.'”
Unfortunately, this truly was the strength of Crimson Peak – how it looked. Aesthetics does not a good movie make. When it came to the actual story, the characters and the acting, well, it was just not good, as previously stated.
The tale of Crimson Peak is pretty simple. Swindlers looking for money to build up their crumbling family business come into town (in this case Buffalo, New York in the 1800’s) in the form of British duo Lucille and Thomas Sharpe (played by Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston). Male swindler picks unwitting, well off, female victim (Edith Cushing, played by Mia Wasikowska) to pursue. Her wealthy father (Carter Cushing, played by Jim Beaver) is killed. She is whisked away to England, along with her fortune, and then she is poisoned. In this sense it’s pretty simple, pretty straightforward. Not overly brilliant. Not overly original. The fact that the intent of the Sharpe’s was so painfully clear from the first moment they arrived on the scene made it that much more baffling when the innocent victim and those around her seemed to completely fail to see what was obviously coming.
And then, there is the acting in Crimson Peak: Again, just not that good. For example, at the top of the movie, Edith Cushing is made out to be a strong, independent sort destined to bust down any barrier put in front of her. That seemed to be quickly abandoned when Thomas Sharpe came into town. What gives? Not much consistency there. That, coupled with a shallow acting, and not a whole lot of expression or soul made for a dull character. In fact, there weren’t many characters in Crimson Peak who had much depth at all. It seemed more time was spent perfecting the sets than the acting.
Much of Crimson Peak dragged on, and on, and on, without much drama, without much of anything really, seemingly taking forever to get to the point. The pace was a tad too slow. It didn’t even seem try to grab the watchers attention, until closer to the end.
Unfortunately, the slow buildup didn’t amount to an exciting enough ending to make up for it. For much of Crimson Peak, it became clear Lucille and Thomas were possibly more than brother and sister. And, it was true. They were having an incestuous relationship, but one that would prove to unravel when Thomas fell in love with the swindled Edith. But, Lucille was having none of it, and it ended up with her brother being stabbed in the face. It turns out Lucille wasn’t the most stable individual and really was quite sadistic and violent.
But, Edith had a knight in shining armour in the form of Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam). Of course, the fine doctor had a long standing crush on Ms. Cushing. His doubts about the Sharpe’s persisted until he figured out what was going on (although how he hadn’t figured it out right from the start makes me question how good of a doctor he actually is). And that, of course, is that Edith was being swindled. So, he took off to England to save her. And he arrived, amazingly, just in time for she was on the verge of being killed by the jealous and evil Lucille Sharpe. And for his efforts, he was stabbed.
Oh, and there were ghosts. They were rather pointless ghosts, but there were ghosts. They were cheesy, not well done, and really not that meaningful to the story. These ghosts seemed particularly interested in Edith. The first ghost Edith met up with was her dead mother who warned her as a child about a place called Crimson Peak (hence the name of the film). Unfortunately for Edith, she didn’t become aware that her new home in England was THAT Crimson Peak until not long before she was to be killed, which made the ghoulish warning a tad useless. And then, there were the ghosts in the Sharpe house, ghosts of past women swindled and killed by the Sharpe’s. Again, they seemed a tad pointless, seeing as they really didn’t convey much information to Edith, even though they seemed desperate to reach out to her and tell her…something.
Based on the trailer for Crimson Peak, it seemed the movie would be a good, spooky, Halloween ghost story. It really wasn’t. Ghosts were the least prominent aspects of Crimson Peak, and they were not well executed (pun intended) at all. In fact, the whole movie was not that well executed, except for the stunning sets and cinematography, which could really help get this movie an Oscar, in the end.
But, despite the fact that the movie wasn’t all that great, reviews (other than this one) have been quite favorable. For example, Sheila O’Malley at RogerEbert.com gives the movie 4-stars out of 4.
“Watching Del Toro’s films is a pleasure because his vision is evident in every frame. Best of all, though, is his belief that ‘what terrifies him will terrify others.’ He’s right.”
It is? He is? Really? Were we watching the same Crimson Peak?
Over all, Crimson Peak missed the mark and was just not that good. It was disappointing to see Guillermo del Toro fall asleep at the wheel with Crimson Peak given the brilliance of past efforts, especially Pan’s Labyrinth. This just didn’t end up being the Halloween blockbuster movie that Crimson Peak had the potential to be.
[Feature image from Legendary Pictures]