Crimson Peak (2015) – 31 Days of Horror: Oct 26

by Jovial Jay

A Gothic inspired horror film continues the marathon of Haunted Houses with Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak.

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this film that appears to be inspired by Gothic horror of old, so I am going to rewatch and see if it still holds up.

Before Viewing

The film focuses on a young lady, who admits that she know “ghosts are real.” She becomes enamored and engaged to a handsome young man (Tom Hiddleston) and goes to live with him in his giant mansion. There are ghostly apparitions throughout the trailer. His sister seems controlling and make demands of the young woman about what she can and cannot do. There’s a definitive vibe of House of Usher happening, with the period drama, the big house and spooky areas under the house. There have definitely been violent and disastrous deaths in this house!

Presented below is the Trailer for the film.

Spoiler Warning - Halloween

After Viewing

Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak is a beautiful, haunting, and lyrical horror film that will scare you and more. Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), daughter of American businessman Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) attends the funeral of her mother. Later that evening the young girl is visited by the blackened spirit of her mother warning her to beware of “Crimson Peak.”

Fourteen years later Edith is a burgeoning author in Buffalo, New York who takes a liking to an English businessman, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) who has come to seek financing from her father. The two begin to fall in love, even though Carter is unable to back Thomas’ mining plan. Carter is suspicious of Thomas’ intentions and hires a private investigator to look into the Sharpe’s background, confronting the young man and asking he and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) to return to England.

The night before the siblings are to leave, Carter Cushing is violently murdered in the bathroom of his club. With no one left to keep her in America, Edith chooses to marry Thomas and return to Allerdale Hall. Her friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) is suspicious of the death of his Edith’s father and continues to investigate.

Edith, Thomas and Lucille arrive at the dilapidated family estate in Cumberland, where the red clay below the mansion is constantly seeping up through the ground and into the house. Edith begins seeing strange red ghosts around the house that beckon her to explore the areas that she has been forbidden from entering. She finds clues that lead her to discover that Thomas has been married three times previously.

Edith’s searches are hampered by her failing health. She discovers wax cylinder recordings from Thomas’ previous wife that blames the Sharpe’s for poisoning her. Edith realizes that Thomas and his sister are using her to get to her fortune. The ghosts point her toward Lucille’s room one night where Edith finds Thomas and his sister in a sexual embrace. Lucille has had enough tip-toeing around and attacks Edith, knocking her over the bannister where she crashes onto the foyer floor.

At that moment Dr. McMichael shows up, having realized the truth as well, and attempts to save Edith. He is attacked by Thomas, but the wounds are not life threatening. Thomas has had a change of heart and wants to let Edith go. But Lucille will not stand for that, and kills her brother. She then chases after Edith who escapes into the snowy mining field out front. Lucille is momentarily distracted by the white ghost of her brother, when Edith smashes her head in with a shovel. Both Edith and Alan depart the cursed mansion, as the spirit of Lucille appears linked to her favorite piano, destined to play her music for eternity.

Your father didn’t tell me it was a ghost story.”
“Oh, it’s not. It’s more a story with a ghost in it. The ghost is just a metaphor.” – Ogilvie and Edith

Crimson Peak is a beautiful film, like many of del Toro’s films, that has solid cinematography and lots of details for viewers to unravel. The first thing that is most obvious is the striking use of color in the film. America is drab, save for Lucille who appears there in her red dress. Upon the return to England the color palette flips, and Lucille wears more drab colors while the red clay around the house and the house itself, provide the colors.

Del Toro also has some other clever allegorical uses of color. Linking Lucille’s dress, the wedding ring (which belonged to the Matron Sharp), the clay and the ghosts, he provides linkages into the past for the characters. Edith mentions that the ghosts are just metaphors for the past, but everything about the Sharpe mansion reeks of the past. Lucille and Thomas are mired in it, and Edith is forced to physically exhume the past as she uncovers the fetid plans of the siblings.

As with many of del Toro’s works, creepy monsters and ghosts are part of it and Crimson Peak is no exception. Longtime collaborator Doug Jones portrays several of the ghosts with his twitchy, jerky movements that are as graceful as they are unsettling. The coloring of the ghosts is also an interesting element of the film. Edith’s mother appears as a black apparition, having died from Black Cholera. The ghosts of Thomas Sharpe’s brides are all red, having been buried in the clay that surrounds Allerdale Hall. And then at the end of the film, Thomas’ own spirit is white, having found peace and enlightenment in his death.

Other elements convey the broader tones of the films. For example, while in America Lucille is taken with the many butterflies that are around, though they are starting to die due to the cold weather. Del Toro shows a colorful butterfly being consumed by black ants. Once in England, the black moths that Lucille had spoken of show up. They populate the final act of the film, as Edith discovers the siblings in flagrante delicto, and she runs for her life from Lucille. It seems obvious that Edith is the butterfly, and the Sharpe’s are the ants and black moths of the world, waiting to bring her down.

Anyone that is a fan of Gothic horror, such as the works of Poe, or the Hammer horror films, will certainly enjoy Crimson Peak for its rich tapestry of color, the sordid characters, and the vengeful spirits that infect its titular homestead.

Assorted Musings

  • Crimson Peak includes two actors from del Toro’s  previous film, Pacific Rim, Charlie Hunnam and Burn Gorman.
  • The Cushing are potential named after famed Hammer horror actor Peter Cushing.

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