CRIM­SON PEAK IN­SIDE OUT

Step into del Toro’s creepy house. An­other peach from Pixar.

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Contents -

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15 | 112 min­utes

Di­rec­tor Guillermo del Toro

Cast Mia Wasikowska, Tom

Hid­dle­ston, Jes­sica Chas­tain, Char­lie

Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gor­man

“It’s not a ghost story,” protests Mia Wasikowska’s Edith Cush­ing, early on in Crim­son Peak. “It’s a story with ghosts in it.” She’s try­ing to per­suade a doubt­ful pub­lisher to take a punt on her de­but novel, imag­in­ing her­self the next Mary Shel­ley. But she’s also speak­ing for di­rec­tor Guillermo del Toro, be­cause al­though Crim­son Peak is a story with ghosts in it, it isn’t ex­actly a ghost story. It’s a sump­tu­ous gothic ro­mance where ghosts might be real, but they’re also just a metaphor.

The bare bones of the plot are pretty typ­i­cal for genre fare. At the dawn of the 20th cen­tury, wannabe author Edith is swept off her feet by a brood­ing (and im­pov­er­ished) no­ble­man. Af­ter mar­ry­ing the sad-eyed Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hid­dle­ston), she’s whisked away to his an­ces­tral home in England – but Allerdale Hall, known as Crim­son Peak be­cause of the blood-red clay it’s built on, is as full of se­crets as it is cob­webs. Stranded there alone with her new hus­band and his over-pro­tec­tive sis­ter Lu­cille (Jes­sica Chas­tain), Edith will need to do a lot of creep­ing around by can­dle­light if she wants to put the Hall’s ghosts to rest.

Del Toro’s in­flu­ences are easy to pick out: there are hat-tips to Re­becca, Ham­mer Hor­ror, Edgar Al­lan Poe, and more than a pass­ing nod to Shirley Jack­son. There are so many homages packed in, in fact, that the film should prob­a­bly come with a rec­om­mended read­ing list. But though the ref­er­ence points are ob­vi­ous, Crim­son Peak is pure del Toro. Like Pa­cific Rim, it’s a love let­ter to the past that’s never less than re­spect­ful, even as it veers off in new di­rec­tions. And like his Span­ish lan­guage hor­rors, it pits su­per­nat­u­ral ter­rors against hu­man evils, ul­ti­mately find­ing the lat­ter far more dis­turb­ing.

As view­ers, we’re let in on most of the film’s twists and turns early on; we know, even if Edith doesn’t, that she’s be­ing lured into a trap. We’d know any­way, just be­cause of the kind of story it is, but del Toro wisely makes it clear from the start that Thomas and Lu­cille are up to some­thing. From the colour-coded cos­tumes to the dated screen­wipes to the por­ten­tous di­a­logue, there’s no sub­tlety to any­thing here; every­thing is stuffed to burst­ing point with sig­nif­i­cance, so all the au­di­ence has to do is sit back and en­joy it.

And there’s so much to en­joy. All three of the main ac­tors at­tack their roles with gusto, as if breath­ing new life into gothic archetypes is the great­est pos­si­ble treat. Wasikowska gives Edith in­tel­li­gence and ballsi­ness; she’s a wil­ful hero­ine in the Jane Eyre mould, though if she’d mar­ried Mr Rochester she would have marched him straight up to the at­tic and de­manded to know what he was play­ing at. Hid­dle­ston

All three of the main ac­tors at­tack their roles with gusto

Just wait till TripAd­vi­sor hears about this.

Her halo’s miles bet­ter than his.

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