"Ghosts are real; that much I know. I've seen them all my life."
It is a very difficult endeavour to approach a critique of the complex thriller-romance-horror film that is Guillermo Del Toro's "Crimson Peak." Suspense is key to a true appreciation of this heart-racing film, which therefore leaves one in the position to refrain from dwelling too long on the plot for fear of spoiling any surprises that the film’s plot has to offer. Therefore, I shall resign myself to focus primarily on the film’s various artistic forms which play a key role in the development of the plot and the overall originality and integrity of Del Toro's intense but often far-fetched tale of love, death and character drama.
At its core, "Crimson Peak" tells the story of a young writer Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), whose rather hasty marriage to charming inventor/businessman Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) produces ghastly consequences when she begins to discover secrets about his mysterious past. The setup of Edith and Sir Thomas and their relocation into what becomes the principal setting of the film is rather unrealistic, considering the brief courtship between the two and the obviously decaying and unnerving nature of the haunted house. While the set-design and costume design of this film are a visual delight to the viewer as one would commonly see in a film by del Toro, not to mention the supernatural aspects that he has always made use of in his films, there is no legitimate reason for Edith to agree to stay in this house, making the overall premise rather silly. Nevertheless, the dark, eerie and rustic exquisiteness of the house, combined with a haunting score by Fernando Velázquez, and stern appearances of the house's inhabitants Hiddleston and his sister, played by Jessica Chastain, all work together successfully to create a supreme nightmare of a haunted house for protagonist Wasikowska.
The casting of this film is excellent. Mia Wasikowska shines as the headstrong writer who is not afraid to stand her ground and possesses a quick-witted and passionate mind that makes her a sympathetic character. However, the true stars of the show are Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain. The former's magnetic performance ranges from both the charming and romantic gentleman, to the mysterious and menacing figure who possesses a dark secret that we have yet to discover. The latter, on the other hand, plays a rather threatening woman behind the calm demeanour that she carries with her throughout the film, making her true intentions almost impossible to determine.
While "Crimson Peak" succeeds in being both a terrifying and violent tale of mystery and suspense, I couldn't help but feel that the addition of the supernatural element was ultimately unnecessary. While the ghosts play a significant role in providing the protagonist with foreshadowing relating to the main antagonists of the film, a complete removal of said plot element in favour of simple clues that Edith could find around the house would have sufficed, and would have had no impact on the overall film itself. Moreover, the film is primarily designed as a psychological thriller centered on its three main characters and the conflicts created between them as a result of the antagonists' past and their present plans for Edith.
Overall, "Crimson Peak" should be viewed as another artistic achievement made by the highly innovative and groundbreaking Guillermo Del Toro. However, I felt as if this film suffered from the same weakness as his last film, "Pacific Rim." Despite the great performances, the picturesque cinematography, and the highly detailed and tone-setting mise-en-scene, the movie tries far too hard to delve into the artistic possibilities of the given genre, and therefore ultimately lacks a strong back story to support its premise. Moreover, I would recommend this film to any horror fans or cinephiles who admire the work of Guillermo Del Toro, though I would recommend one of his previous films, such as "Pan's Labyrinth" or even "Hellboy," which are far more entertaining in that they mix a great story and unique characters in equal measure.