ReelBob: Crimson Peak
If Charlotte Bronte and Daphne du Maurier had been collaborating screenwriters at Universal Pictures in the 1930s, the result might have been “Crimson Peak.”
This chilling feature co-written by Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins, and directed by del Toro, has the feel of one of Bronte’s Gothic romances, such as “Jane Eyre,” blended with the psychological thriller vibe of du Maurier’s “Rebecca.”
Despite its color palate, the film’s cinematography by Dan Laustsen, production design by Thomas E. Sanders and musical score by Fernando Velazquez create a nostalgic aura that recalls the black-and-white features released by Universal or 20th Century Fox in the late 1930s and early to mid-1940s.
The story centers on Edith Cushing, an imperiled heroine, portrayed by Mia Wasikowska, an impoverished English baronet, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his icy and odd sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain).
While in Buffalo, N.Y., looking to raise capital for an invention that would help save his English estate, Sharpe meets Edith, and they fall in love.
A tragedy draws them together, and they wed, returning to the Sharpes ancestral manor, a dilapidated structure that has a hole in the roof, is cold, damp, huge and ominous.
Edith, left on her own for long periods of time, begins to see strange apparitions. Thomas and Lucille, of course, believe she is hallucinating.
As time passes, Edith notices more and more strange things about the ghostly premises.
At a minute under two hours, “Crimson Peak” slowly continues to build suspense and tension, as well as create a few frightening sequences that will cause you to jump. Goosebumps are optional.
You know something is amiss in this desolate manse; death hangs over the place like smog over Beijing.
Edith seems haunted by spirits. Their motives are what is unknown. Are they wanting to harm the young newlywed or warn her of impending danger?
Despite some graphic violence, “Crimson Peak” is a lush and entertaining throwback. It’s a feature where the shocks are not thrown in your face, but sneak up on you like a Stealth bomber.
The three main performers all acquit themselves admirably.
Wasikowska may be frightened and confused by the events around her, but when necessary, she has the means and strength to fight for her life.
Hiddleston is charming, pale and weak, a man whose good looks and European gallantry mask a duplicitous nature.
Chastain steals the movie as the stiff-backed Lucille, who runs the household as if commanding an army. You know something is definitely wrong with her.
The revelation, though suspected, still is jolting.
“Crimson Peak” provides scares, chills, romance and danger. Del Toro keeps us on edge while moving the story forward and jangling our nerves.
This is one haunted house that may be worth a second look.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
3½ stars out of 4(R), graphic and bloody violence, frightening images, sexual content and language