When the words be aware of the crimson peak are whispered to the young Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) in the beginning of the movie, the meaning of that message is lost until it will be too late. The effect of those words translates similarly to the audience, but when the secret behind crimson peak is revealed to both Edith and the audience, it’s almost like a jolt of disappointment because it happens way too carelessly for it to have a profound effect.
With Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro writes and directs a horror movie that belongs to a different era, and I hope I’m not the only one to see it as a refreshment to the current content of the genre. It’s certainly strange and a little odd but it is also a beautiful visual experience that delivers probably the best looking ghosts (read: horrific and terrifying) I have ever seen. But what it gains with its strong visual appeal, it looses with the story line, where its narrative borderlines tiresome by the end of the second half and outside its eerie context, the plot actually sounds like script for a soap opera.
Edith Cushing is an aspiring writer, living with her father, who happens to meet a pair of siblings with an unusual appeal, Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) and Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain). Foreigners, who have traveled the world in search of investments, stumble upon the Cushings and seek their approval in regards to a machine Thomas has built. Then tragedy hits, and Edith is whisked away by Thomas to a decaying mansion on top of a clay mine called Allerdale Hall in England. But life is not bliss because soon after arriving there, Edith encounters a ghost and the search for answers is set in motion. Back home, Dr Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnman) starts putting the pieces together with unnerving results.
Now, the fist half of Crimson Peak is strong and powerful. Mia Wasikowska is a brilliant choice to portray Edith and Tom Hiddleston is as charming as he can be, despite the dishonest demeanor he seems to have throughout the movie. But as the story progresses and we are revealed that the Allerdale Hall is nicknamed crimson peak, the mystery somehow diminishes and what is left is a story of sibling lovers and a mentally unstable Lucille with jealousy issues! Sure, the full story is laid in front of us in the very end, but for me, as soon as the crimson peak mystery was revealed in passing, the disappointment appeared and I’m still a little frustrated about it. Why reveal it when you could simply show it in the very end, while the path in the snow turns crimson red, and have the effect of the message shown instead of stated bluntly?
This has bothered me too much as it is, and because I have questioned the narrative of the crimson peak mystery ever since I found out about it, I can’t say I loved Crimson Peak. And I really wanted to love it because it has so many great elements, especially the cinematography and the set design, as well as the acting which only bothered me when the narrative started to weigh me down. And the costume design was so strong and noticeable throughout, that it deserves to be a separate character on its own: Costume Design, an exaggerated character with lavish details and eerie appeal.
In the end, though so much potential, Crimson Peak falls a little thin and it’s because the narrative isn’t as polished as the rest of the movie. It felt messy and a little carelessly handled, where a bit more sophistication would have gained it more likability. Not just sophistication in regards to the siblings and their backstory, but most importantly, the crimson peak mystery should, in the perfect little corner of my mind, have had a cleverer reveal.