When was the last time we saw a story about ghosts and their pasts, without the mandatory jarring music and thrills are every turn? A while. So for those who love deliciously atmospheric set pieces in the genre of the super natural mysteries, Crimson Peak will prove to be a delight.
Director Del Toro, a genre geek in his own right, takes us into turn of the century America into a time where women writers are looked down upon and expected to write nothing more than love stories. Edith, the writer, is besotted by a European Baronet played by Hiddleston, who marries her after her dad’s tragic death and takes her to his in ruins inherited home and land. His sister played by Chastain, is a constant presence and the proverbial third wheel in the marriage until Edith discovers that there is more to the house and household she entered into than the red colour clay oozing out of the mines under the house.
There are apparitions in the bath, shadowy skeletons crawling out of the floors and every creek and corner of the house carries a shrieking howl of a soul in pain. In the midst of this all stands the fragile, delicately beautiful Edith, in bright hues of canary yellow, surrounded by rotting iron and desolate death. A modern progressive free spirited woman is tied down in a seemingly claustrophobic house that holds more secrets than it let’s known.
As Edith slowly discovers the horrors her husband Sharpe is living with, the illicit affair between her husband and his sister, corpses come floating out of pits in the cellar and voices cry out to her asking Edith to “play with me”. We the audience are transported into a world where there is no evident macabre ghost in our face yet a sense of impending disaster lurking, looming heavy on our minds. A nod to the beginnings of cinema and the beginnings of horror shadow play there in is slipped in effortlessly via trick photography and recordings on wax cylinders.
Every scene, every set piece is carefully put in place, be the waltz by Sharpe with a candle in hand, or the bone chilling crimson snow towards the end (giving the haunted house , and consequently the film its name Crimson Peak), the film is a carefully painstakingly mounted work of art. Evocative music that draws you into the eeriness without shocking is a plus.
The real strength of the film are the principal leads- Mia as the waif like beauty Edith, Chastain as the sister and Tom as Sharpe, each of the three are in spectacular form. Mia displays an aching vulnerability with stoic strength of a woman determined to carve her own fate. Tom , torn between his loyalty to his sister and his inability to break free of a cursed life is a charmer. Chastain however steals the show as the deranged sister desperate to keep hold of her control over her brother.
Watching the film in IMAX is a pleasant detour from the rigmarole of larger than life 3D spectacles one is wont to on the big screen. A pleasant break from the loud gore peddled in the name of horror films too, Crimson Peak is a delightful watch.