Guillermo del Toro is one of these directors that truly owns genre filmmaking. Whether it’s a Spanish ghost haunting an orphanage, vampires, a monster from hell fighting on our side, or even having giant robots fighting creatures from the deep, del Toro knows what he’s doing. Is it any wonder why he has such a strong following for his films? What he creates is pure imagination and genius. This year he goes back to his horror roots to bring audiences his latest creation: Crimson Peak. A gothic horror story set in the late 19th century about Sir Thomas Sharpe, his wife Edith, and Thomas’s sister Lucille, all living together in an old house full of dark secrets. It is a beautiful looking movie with amazing talent but ends up being a boring, bitter disappointment all around.
The movie is centered on Edith, Mia Wasikowska, who becomes infatuated with English traveler Sir Thomas Sharpe, Tom Hiddleston. Thomas and his spinster sister Lady Lucille, Jessica Chastain, are traveling abroad hoping to find funding for Thomas’s business to save his family’s ancestral home. Falling love with Edith, the two are married quickly and soon find themselves living in the Sharpe home in England, a crumbling mansion in a largely mountainous region where the nearest town could be a day’s walk. Edith soon finds herself spending time alone in the strange house where she soon begins to encounter supernatural happenings.
Edith begins to suspect that not all is what it seems. The Sharpe Manor harbors ghostly, mysterious entities, which Thomas and his and his sister, Lady Lucille, desperately and fiercely try to hide. Edith soon begins to learn the truth and she must stop the evil before she is consumed by it. What could have been an amazing movie about one woman’s fight for survival against all ghostly odds ends up being a simple story that you could have seen on the Lifetime channel on a Sunday afternoon. The movie ends up playing like a dark gothic version of V.C. Andrew’s “Flowers in the Attic” rather than the ghostly, supernatural thriller the trailer would have you believe.
I have never been more disappointed by a del Toro movie in all my life. The story is so mundane it insults the viewer. How can something look so fantastic and be so boring? This could have been a masterpiece by one of the truly great filmmakers of the last 25 years. All we get is a visually stunning looking film, surrounded by amazing talent, wasted with a story so over-played that this should have been called, Jackie Collins’ Crimson Peak. This makes you want another movie with all the same actors playing the same roles just in a better movie.
It’s been rumored for years that Disney wants del Toro to create and direct a Haunted Mansion movie, even going so far as to have him say so at Comic Con one year. But yet, year after year, we wait for this del Toro Haunted Mansion movie to come. Then Crimson Peak comes along and it looks like a precursor to what could be his Mansion flick. But alas, it is not. You still want him to direct a Haunted Mansion movie because he clearly understands the process of making a movie eerie and scary, you just hope that he doesn’t write it. If his last two movies are any indication of where his writing mind is at, maybe it’s time to take a break and recharge.
As I said, the acting is amazing. Hiddleston is doing his best Loki, just in another medium. Wasikowska is just as good as she always is. An amazing job by Jim Beaver, who plays Edith’s father, Carter. Charlie Hunnam plays another of Edith suitors, Dr. Alan McMichael, a character so boring even Hunnam is falling asleep while playing him. Then comes the best actor in the movie: Jessica Chastain as Lady Lucille. She owns the movie. From her first scene she commands you to watch her every move. She oozes with evil and cruelty. It is worth watching the movie for her performance alone.
The special effects are top notch. The ghosts look real and there are some decent jump scares. Some scenes are so beautiful, so full of color and life that it hurts to look at. Stunning. The film moves from one scene to another with these eerie circle transitions that remind you of a classic Universal Horror movie. Everything is so well used and has its place; so it is that much more painful when you figure out the movie has little to do with ghosts. In fact,(spoiler alert) most of the scary ghost stuff, you’ve seen in the trailer. That is unacceptable. When I sign up for a del Toro ghost movie it had better be that.
The music, the sets and the costumes all come alive before your eyes. Much thought and care was put into making this movie look as real as possible. The movie is alive and breathes color and passion as you watch. It’s just a shame that the story is so dreary that it weighs down all the amazement surrounding it.
I know this review is a bit all-over-the-place, being that I don’t want ruin the “plot twist” that you can see coming from a mile away. You’ll know what I mean if you’ve ever watched a nighttime soap or read any romance novels. The movie has some wonderful things in it, just not the story or plot. Everything beyond that is out of this world and makes it worth seeing. Now, you dear readers might not find the story as boring and contrived as I did, and for that I applaud you. For me, I was so disappointed by a personal filmmaker hero that I don’t know where to go from here. I feel sad that something so wonderful looking can be so blah.