Director Guillermo del Toro delivered an unexpectedly compelling and disturbing Gothic romance/period piece with Crimson Peak.
Set in the United States in 1887, it is about a young, wealthy author, “Edith Cushing,” played by Mia Wasikowska, who is seduced by a charming Englishman, “Sir Thomas Sharpe” (Tom Hiddleston). Soon after they meet, it becomes clear to the viewer that he has motivations other than mere love for pursuing the relationship.
Cushing, haunted by visions of ghosts since her childhood, is soon warned by an apparition, ” to beware of Crimson Peak.”
Edith’s father, suspicious of the slick and charming Sharpe, warns the suitor to end the relationship with his daughter. The father is soon brutally murdered, leaving the two free to carry on the romance. They quickly marry. Sharpe takes his bride back to England to live with him and his sister, “Lucille,” (Jessica Chastain) in the broken down family mansion, Allerdale Hall, which sits atop a red clay mine.
Allerdale Hall is a dreadful, miserable, septic place. It’s so tangible and terrifying that it is essentially another “character” in the film.
Crimson Peak is dark and foreboding. It is stylish and palpably atmospheric. Though technically more thriller than horror, the film features some quality scares. It’s a throwback to the glorious Hammer films of the 60’s and 70’s.
Directed by Patrick Brice and starring Mark Duplass (vanguard of the “mumblecore” film movement), it is about a freelance cameraman,”Aaron,” (Patrick Brice) who answered a Craigslist advertisement. He is hired to record a day in the life of a dying man, “Josef,” (Duplass) so he can have a video document to leave for his yet unborn son.
The day begins innocently enough. Aaron follows Josef on a hike and gets lunch with him. Eventually, however, Josef’s personable veneer begins to crack and he begins to say and do unsettling things. Circumstances quickly degenerate.
The film, which is Brice’s debut effort, was shot almost entirely in the first person. In fact, there are only two actors onscreen for the totality of the movie. It is spartan, but affecting and troubling. Duplass’ performance will stay with you long after it concludes.
-Zep the Bear