A good horror film generates effective atmosphere. It shouldn’t rely on CGI pyrotechnics for scares but create the illusion of looming terror. Those who have done so have lasted the distance. ‘Crimson Peak’ mostly fits this bill. Helmed by renowned fantasy director Guillermo del Toro, it adds another bright creative mark on his cinematic ledger. Crafting an enduringly chilling mood, this gothic horror confection has plenty of spooky substance within its stylishly frightful vistas.
Moving into an old mansion in the late 19th Century, newlyweds Edith (Mia Wasikowska) and Sir Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) seem a good match. Although having a sense of foreboding about her new residence, Edith tries to settle in. When meeting Sir Thomas’s sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) Edith soon realises all is not as it seems. With the help of friend Dr. Alan (Charlie Hunnam), Edith discovers a terror filled house whose secrets her new husband tries to protect at their peril.
Crimson Peak’ finds del Toro in his indulgent element. This isn’t a bad thing as his dark visuals always sparkle. Whilst the meandering story is somewhat predictable with certain ghost-story motifs evident, ‘Crimson Peak’ is never less than an eye-catching experience. Perhaps this is the point as del Toro’s direction occasionally sidelines the plot in favour of showing off his amazingly rendered sets. This makes it difficult to remain involved in his character’s actions although one can’t deny del Toro’s gifted film-making techniques.
The production design enlivens the performances. Of the main trio, Chastain stands out with her sinister role hitting the right note. She acts well against the CGI which thankfully isn’t over-used. ‘Crimson Peak’ exists for the experience and look rather dazzling CGI, even if it’s top-notch. The period setting successfully adds to the flavour of mystery and suspense. The costumers go all out in providing great outfits for everyone to wear with the music score aiding the conjuring of the era.
Although the story isn’t anything remarkable, ‘Crimson Peak’ is undeniably a visual treat. Managing some genuine scares amidst its bleakly gothic trappings, it mostly achieves a horror film’s aims in staying with you long after the lights come up.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 6
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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