Red and dead

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

re­leased 15 Fe­bru­ary 2015 | 15 | Blu- ray/ DVD

Di­rec­tor Guillermo del Toro

Cast Mia Wasikowska, Jes­sica Chas­tain, Tom Hid­dle­ston, Char­lie Hun­nam, Jim Beaver

Guillermo del Toro’s stylish ghost story isn’t just Gothic with a cap­i­tal “G” – the word’s writ­ten in beau­ti­ful cop­per­plate script, on a sign drip­ping in blood, with a raven sit­ting on top. The prob­lem is that, while it’s un­de­ni­ably beau­ti­ful to look at, at times creepy and an unashamedly lov­ing homage to Ham­mer and its hor­rific brethren, Crim­son Peak fails to add up to the sum of its parts. It’s cer­tainly nowhere near the equal of the di­rec­tor’s bona fide spooky clas­sics The Devil’s Back­bone and Pan’s Labyrinth.

That’s de­spite a set- up that prom­ises much, as mys­te­ri­ous English aris­to­crat Sir Thomas Sharpe ( Tom Hid­dle­ston) rolls up in Buf­falo, New York, and woos Edith Cushing ( Mia Wasikowska), the daugh­ter of a lo­cal busi­ness­man. They’re soon head­ing back to Allerdale Hall ( nick­named Crim­son Peak) – the di­lap­i­dated Cum­brian stately home he shares with his sis­ter Lu­cille ( Jes­sica Chas­tain) – for a hon­ey­moon packed with the wrong kind of bumps in the night. Looks like the ghostly apparition of Edith’s late mother may have been on to some­thing when she said, “Be­ware of Crim­son Peak…”

In terms of build­ing mood, the film is fault­less. Allerdale Hall is a vis­ually ar­rest­ing haunted house of night­mares, where a hole in the roof cre­ates an eerily lit col­umn of fall­ing snow, and you feel ev­ery oddly- shaped shadow could be home to some­thing nasty. Also, an ac­ci­dent of ge­og­ra­phy means the house is built upon bright red clay that leaks out of the floor and LOOKS LIKE BLOOD! Yes, it’s con­trived and a bit too on- thenose ( the hor­ror!), but we’ll let del Toro off be­cause it looks amaz­ing.

Yet, de­spite some typ­i­cally off­beat, un­con­ven­tional spec­tres from the Guillermo book of the ma­cabre, Crim­son Peak is not a great ghost story. There are a few de­cent jumps, a pitch- per­fect score, and plenty of dread and fore­bod­ing, but the tale never builds to the scary cli­max you’re hop­ing for. In­deed, the big re­veal in the fi­nal act just seems to fiz­zle away, a dis­ap­point­ing mix of pre­dictable and un­der­whelm­ing.

The lead cast are all spot on, par­tic­u­larly the un­for­tu­nate-but­proac­tive Edith and the awk­wardly charm­ing Hid­dle­ston, but they just don’t have enough to work with. To para­phrase the won­der­ful Eric More­cambe, Crim­son Peak has all the right el­e­ments, they’re just not nec­es­sar­ily in the right or­der.

Ex­tras The DVD dis­ap­points, com­ing with just five deleted scenes. The Blu- ray adds a del Toro com­men­tary, in­ter­views with the di­rec­tor and mem­bers of the cast ( 19 min­utes) and a Mak­ing Of ( eight min­utes), plus five more fea­turettes ( 41 min­utes) on sub­jects such as the his­tory of gothic ro­mance, the cos­tume de­sign, the man­sion set, and the pros­thetic ef­fects. Richard Ed­wards

Fails to add up to the sum of its parts

Reg­u­lar del Toro col­lab­o­ra­tor Doug Jones ( Hell­boy’s Abe Sapien, Pan’s Labyrinth’s Pale Man) plays two ghosts in the movie.

Mau­reen was get­ting fed up of power cuts.

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