NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Crimson Peak Review

crimsonpeak1Photo courtesy of Legendary Pictures
Viewers who go into Guillermo del Toro’s “Crimson Peak” expecting straightforward horror will be disappointed. This is not a horror movie in today’s sense of the word, filled with cheap jump scares, computer-generated ghouls and dying teenagers. This is a gothic romance in which most of the horrors happen offscreen — a tragedy of taboos that revels in melodrama and repressed emotion.

It takes place in the steam-powered world of the Industrial Revolution, of course, because what better time is there to set a movie about repression? Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) and her father, Carter (Tom Beaver) are visited by the Sharpe siblings, Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) and Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Thomas has come all the way from Britain, hoping to earn Carter’s investment in his invention. He’s unconvinced, so Thomas remains in town… just long enough to fall in love with Edith.

Oh, and Edith keeps getting a mysterious warning from her mother — who, by the way, is a ghost — to “beware of Crimson Peak.” So naturally, when she marries Thomas and heads to England at his side, where does he happen to live?

If you figured that brain-buster out, you’ll have no trouble solving the rest of the mysteries well before the movie does. But don’t despair, that’s part of the fun: del Toro has created a magical Hammer Horror tribute, complete with operatic emotion, iris wipes and a spectacular manor.

This may be one of the most beautiful and haunting movie sets ever constructed. The mansion’s foyer has a hole in the ceiling that lets autumn leaves — and later, snow — fall freely to the center of the room. Having been built on a clay pit, there are scarlet trails running down the walls. And the very architecture of the place is sometimes more creepy than the ghosts that inhabit it: spiky archways and a rickety elevator give plenty of chills.

In the end, though, it’s the big emotions that provide the major thrills. Edith finds more than she bargains for in the old house, and tension escalates to the breaking point. Wasikowska, Hiddleston and Chastain all contribute wonderfully to the melodrama, staying committed to their roles even through dialogue that borders on the ridiculous. One late scene, featuring Chastain slamming a kitchen implement down, is so gleefully absurd that it has to be seen to be believed. And that feeling carries through the rest of the movie, which is over-the-top in all the right ways.

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