As a newly wed couple crosses the threshold of their home, the mansion opens up to a beautiful picturesque, yet decomposing, lobby, painted with macabre blacks and the titular blood-like crimson. With each footfall, Thomas Sharpe, the character depicted by Tom Hiddleston, brings up the red clay that is the main export of the family, from between the decrepit floorboards, showing that the house is slowly sinking into the harvested earth. Though this may be the audience’s first introduction to the main setting of the film, halfway through the storyline, it’s haunting nature has been foreshadowed from the beginning. The main character Edith Cushing, played by Mia Wasikowska, is visited by her dead mother several times, with her only whispering a warning for Edith to stay away from Crimson Peak.
This is merely a taste of the beauty and depth that exists throughout the film. With director Guillermo del Torro being an expert in creating an aesthetic of both wonder and unnerving mysticism, it is to be expected that his latest film would transport the audience into this Victorian landscape in which everything is painted with age yet is colored with vivid hues that add a depth that dialogue alone could not reach. As the title of the film presupposes, the colors of the scenes and settings are as much of the plot and storyline as any of the actors. The before mentioned castle is shown oozing with the crimson clay playing parallel to the running blood of it’s former tenants, it is as if the mansion itself is bleeding. This is an overarching theme as the building itself is treated as a dynamic character. It is said to be breathing as fireplaces flare up and creaks echo through the massive spaces. Though this is one of the most compelling pieces of the film, it is also one of the main downfalls, the house itself turns out to be the best-developed character in the film. It is hard to find many faults with the plot and characters, with the cast displaying a duo of strong female characters, a quality, sadly, still an aspect to note in the film community, they still have a tendency to fall flat at times. Our introduction to Edith is well played and displays her as an interestingly diverse character, being a female writer writing ghost stories, and pushing back as her publisher demands her to write a romance into what she had seen as a well rounded piece. Ironically as she comes in contact with romance in her own life, this strong-headed aspect soon dissipates into Hiddleston’s mysterious depiction of the aristocrat Thomas Sharpe. Though this does resurface at different parts of the plot, it comes to be seen as nearly a novelty rather than the desired defining characteristic.
The romance is what comes to frame the film. Del Torro states that though it may be interpreted as a horror film, the true intended definition of his film is a gothic romance. In trailers, can be seen horrifying, ghostly apparitions, yet in the actual film, the supernatural takes nearly a back-seat to the plot, a welcome change in pace. The focus of the film is the romantic aspect, playing more like an Edgar Allen Poe piece rather than a modern horror film. Though the dialogue would sometimes drag, it is the setting and emotion that keeps the audience invested. Crimson Peak is a film that you want to just press pause and look at the artistry painted into every frame, and though the plot sometimes didn’t show the same care, it all tied up into a compelling and teleporting experience.