The episode of Revisited covering Crimson Peak was Written by Emilie Black, Edited by Ric Solomon, Narrated by Niki Minter, Produced by Tyler Nichols and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
As of now, I think my love for Guillermo Del Toro as a filmmaker is well established. I adore the man and his work. He plays in my favorite sandboxes, with monsters, vampires, kaiju, giant robots, and in the gothic world whenever he feels like it. The man is after my heart with every single movie he makes. In 2015, he went ahead and asked himself, what does this girl love that she hasn’t gotten a whole lot of lately? And he answered with a gothic love story with ghosts in a Hammer-esque setting in a mansion with walls that bleed and memories imbedded in its construction. So, if you didn’t guess from all that, this is a love letter to Crimson Peak (watch it HERE), a film that cannot be judged logically even after years as a film reviewer. And years is an understatement as that’s over 20 years of film reviewing for me and well, this film hit all the right notes, except for one, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s start with the overall rating I’d give this film. In my totally, completely unbiased opinion, Crimson Peak is a solid 9.5/10. There is only one thing that bugs me about it and well, yeah, of course it does.
So, how does a film get this close to a perfect grade? Well, the story here is that perfect mix of gothic period piece, about love, jealousy, romance, murder, and ghosts. Yeah, ghosts and that’s where it’s at really. The film here is about a writer, a young woman who isn’t taken seriously in the world of publication because, well, she’s a woman and a young one at that. Her father also doesn’t take her ambitions of becoming a writer seriously and wants her to get married to a good husband. Enters a mysterious man who seems too good to be true, encourages her writing, and wants her. He’s of course also interested in selling his invention to her father, a machine that extracts red clay. Blood red clay. This doesn’t go as he’d like, skipping a few details, he father ends up getting killed, she ends up marrying the mysterious charmer, moves into his dilapidated mansion, ends up living with him and his sister, we discover that the brother and sister are way closer than they should be, but he loves her, making his sister angry, things get weird, ghosts show up, she’s poisoned, old flame comes back, people die, more ghosts, happy ending. Or something. It’s way more complicated than this but we don’t want to spend this whole video to be all about the details of the story as we could very well be if you get me going on this movie.
The story here is well written by Guillermo Del Toro, who needs no introduction I hope, and Mathew Robbins whose other credits include *batteries not included, Close Encounter of the Third Kind, Mimic and its sequel, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and a bunch more before Crimson Peak. He’s got some cred, but no gothic romances with ghosts and bleeding blood. So, we can easily assume that some of that was from Del Toro who loves the creepy stuff and the monsters and the ghosts. The pairing here works great. The one “ick” from this story is when it comes to the incestual relationship between two of the leads. Yeah, it’s kind of period appropriate, it’s something that adds tension and creates weirdness, but could we have gone with childhood friends or orphanage roommates or something else. Yeah, it’s something that happens, but do we really need it here? Personally, I think the film would have little to no change had Lucille and Thomas been childhood friends or orphanage companions. There was a way around the incest, but it’s there, so we shall live with it. In terms of rating, it does affect my rating, hence the 0.5 out of 10 removed from the film being perfect. Call me a prude over this, I don’t care. I am pretty open to things; this is something that didn’t need to be. So that’s why the film doesn’t get a perfect grade.
Now, let’s check out the cast. Some folks had issues with some of it, but I didn’t. I went in there just hoping for good performances and good is what I got. Actually, some of them are great. In terms of the cast, that is where I want to start, with two smaller parts that are so good, they are chilling. Technically, there are 5 parts, but 2 actors. In the parts of Edith’s Mother and Lady Sharpe we get Doug Jones and in the parts of Enola, Margaret, Pamela, we get Javier Botet. Two master monster actors. Just the top best. Yes, the parts probably could have gone to ladies, but these two work great with Del Toro and they are amazing at doing those creepy moves, the subtle variations that are present in the dead, in monsters, in ghosts. They do so great here, they are the top best performances in the film. We barely get to see them, but they push the creepy factor to eleven and they are so great and unexpected here. Having gone in not knowing this was a ghost story, their presence was so very much welcomed, and their performances are beloved. Now, back to the living, or at least the living characters in the film. The lead here is Edith Cushing, whose last name cannot be an accident. This lead is played by Mia Wasikowska who is perfect in the part. She’s great at having that wide-eyed hopefulness about her, then see it turn into love, then see this evolved into a sort of fear, then despair. Her work here is lovely. It would fit in any period piece and in any gothic film, so it’s just right here. Playing her father, Carter Cushing is Jim Beaver and there’s not one “idjit” anywhere in his dialog. Of course, I’ve loved him on Supernatural, but here is part is rather different. He gets only a few scenes, but he has an impact. Playing the mystery man who soon turns new husband to Edith, Thomas Sharpe, is Tom Hiddleston. I mean come on, probably one of the best possible choices for a mysterious gentleman to sweep a girl off her feet. I mean, a different girl, not my type, but he’s so charming here, he plays the part just right. Charming and creepy. Playing his sister Lucille Sharpe is Jessica Chastain is just about perfectly evil here. Her work is so on point, she steals all the scenes she’s in. She’s amazing. Then we get Charlie Hunnam as Dr. Alan McMichael, a man in love with Edith who ends playing a very important part in her salvation. Hunnam is good here but leaves us wishing he had more to work with. There is a whole supporting cast, and everyone is good here, no one sticks out like a sore thumb which says a lot about the script and direction.
Now, as a person with a background in fashion history and photography with a passion for horror, this film is something else from a visual standpoint. Just look at it. Look! At! It! The cinematography by Dan Laustsen is just stunning. It’s so beautiful. The film is framed and shot carefully, giving each scene a chance to be seen, to end up looking like a painting at times. The film is given the right attention from Laustsen and the editing by Bernat Vilaplana gives each scene the time it needs to develop, especially the creepy moments, edited just right, giving them the right balance to be creepy and to instill fear. There is a dread that happens here in how the film is edited from the images given, getting perfect moments for the viewer. In these images, we get to see the careful décor, the use of use of color to create a world that is just right, one that is also just the right amount of off. The costumes by Kate Hawley need to be noted here. They are beautiful and period appropriate with a touch of daring. The design, choice of fabrics and colors, the way it all comes together with the hair and makeup creates dreamy looks and helps with the character creation.
Of course, we cannot skip the love for the special effects. They are awesome! Like nerdtastically amazing. Horror at its best. The characters played by Doug Jones and Javier Botet are so well done, they are so creepy, they prove that with the right mix of practical effects and CGI effects and with the right teams, almost anything is possible these days. Or for a few years really. The film has aged beautifully on that front. It’s from 2015 and rewatching recently, it looks like it could have been released this year. The effects play a huge part in this. They are so good. This is how you make ghosts that look like they could touch you, that look like they have a tortured soul, and that look like maybe, just maybe, they don’t just want bad things for our lead. These are some of the best effects the team under makeup effects key artist Xavi Bastida brings together on the screen for us. Of course, there are other effects, like the murder of Carter Cushing, that are ooey, gooey, bloody, violent, and gross. That comes early in the film and it’s easy for this to be overshadowed by the later parts of the film, but it is very well done and done with not just talent, but a flare for good gore. Between that murder and the ghosts, there could have been nothing else in terms of effects, but there is more of course, most of it looking great. One bit that may not have aged as well is the showdown between Edith, Lucille, and Thomas. It looks decent, but these days it looks like it could be just a touch better.
That being said, it’s not the worst seen in the last few years and given the rest of the film, it’s easy to overlook. Also, that ending is fitting. It’s overly dramatic, it’s gothic, it’s sad romance. It’s the kind of ending that is perfect here, kind of happy, kind of sad, like a good old tale of love and ghosts in a long bygone era, filled with beautiful people, a decrepit yet beautiful location, where a writer of ghost novels could get her fill of inspiration while attempting to survive a diabolical plan. This ending is the only ending this film could have had. Spoiler, yes both Lucille and Thomas who had turned against his sister, needed to die here. There is a romance to it. There is a heroic death for a man who started off evil. There is a complete release for the poor woman victimize by the siblings, there is a clear closure for her. A sad, yet perfect closure. Yeah, the effects on those last two ghosts are not perfect and distract from the scene a little bit, but once used to them, it’s easy to rewatch the movie and ignore that little issue.
Crimson Peak is one of those films that is made with care at every single level, each and every team and person on this film gave their best under the guidance of Guillermo Del Toro, thus showing that he knows how to get the best people together, how to get them to work together just right, and how to get his vision to come to life on the screen. This is one of the best Del Toro to this gothic nerd who went to prom in a spider web dress. The teen girl in me loves this probably even more than adult me does and it’s good to feed your soul with art that just works for you and makes you happy. This is a goth horror movie that is reminiscent of Hammer and other old timey studios, it’s goth horror that knows how to build a few scares, but mainly how to build attachments to the characters to make you feel their plight. It’s the kind of gothic horror we do not get enough of and when we get some, it feels like it’s lesser-than, like it’s not hitting the mark. Crimson Peak hits the mark, it hits all the marks, even one that I wish it didn’t, but it’s so good that it’s easy to have it on regular rotation, to have play as you work and get sidetracked because it’s too good to pass up even on the 200th viewing.
Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!