“Crimson Peak” presents an unfortunate irony for most reviewers like myself. The movie is essentially what we clamor for day in and day out: the chance for a great auteur like Guillermo del Toro to work on a sprawling canvas with a large budget of $55 million. Yet, at the end of the day, the end product feels lacking in substance. So how to respond?
If it felt like an ambitious endeavor in pursuit of a singular vision that just never quite finds its footing, I might be inclined to judge it more kindly. While del Toro’s exercise in merging the Gothic romance with haunted house horror is interesting, “Crimson Peak” does not derive its strength from such a union. In fact, most of the film’s memorable moments come from well-placed homages to classics like “Psycho” and “The Shining.”
del Toro’s immaculate eye for costume and design keep “Crimson Peak” stunning to look at, even if the events that unfold in this milieu are boring enough to encourage some shut-eye. The film shows its hand far too early as two eerily close British siblings, Thomas and Lucille Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain), arrive in Buffalo, NY, to seek a capital injection. Thomas conveniently falls for the main financier’s daughter, Mia Wasikowska’s Edith Cushing, and takes her back to their family estate known as Allerdale Hall.
“Crimson Peak” manages to elicit the odd thrill or chill here and there, but a moment where the Sharpes are seen plotting some unknown scheme towards the beginning of the film robs the experience of suspense. There is not nearly enough heat between Hiddleston and Wasikowska to enliven the stale romantic beats they are doomed to hit. Only Jessica Chastain, in a delightfully demented turn, manages to really excite when the final act finally allows her to come unhinged.
She’s almost too good for the movie. While it’s hard to fault her for wanting to collaborate with a director like Guillermo del Toro, I can’t help but wish all this wrath was channeled into a more exciting work. C+ /