Far from peak per­for­mances

Rutherglen Reformer - - The Ticket -

He’s tack­led vam­pires (Cronos), comic book he­roes (Hell­boy, Blade II) and gi­ant ro­bots (Pa­cific Rim) and now vi­sion­ary Mex­i­can di­rec­tor Guillermo del Toro turns his cre­ative hands to the world of gothic hor­ror for his ninth fea­ture film.

We’re in su­per­nat­u­ral spook-fest and haunted house ter­ri­tory as Mia Wasikowska’s (Edith) as­pir­ing author is pulled into the lives of mys­te­ri­ous stranger Thomas (Tom Hid­dle­ston) and his trou­bled sis­ter Lady Lu­cille Sharpe ( Jes­sica Chas­tain) at the turn of the 20th cen­tury.

Crim­son Peak is a cu­ri­ous hy­brid of old school “things that go bump in the night” scares and blood and gore closer as­so­ci­ated to the leg­endary Grand Guig­nol stylings.

For his re­turn to the hor­ror genre, del Toro re-teams with his Mimic co-writer Matthew Rob­bins and the tone – if not the pe­riod set­ting – is sim­i­lar to the del Toro-pro­duced Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.

Much like that flawed-but-fun 2010 re­lease, it’s the pro­duc­tion de­sign and lo­ca­tion that are the real stars of the show.

The Sharpe sib­lings’ colos­sal di­lap­i­dated man­sion Allerdale Hall is up there with the very best haunted houses com­mit­ted to screen: creeky stair­cases, dimly-lit rooms and blood-red colour flour­ishes from genre cin­e­matog­ra­pher Dan Laust­sen (Silent Hill, Wind Chill) com­bin­ing to send shiv­ers down spines.

The spec­tral be­ings tor­ment­ing Edith once again see del Toro prov­ing he is the master of mix­ing pup­petry and prac­ti­cal ef­fects with CGI trick­ery, bet­ter­ing the rather sloppy look­ing sin­is­ter tooth fairies in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.

Wasikowska con­tin­ues her im­pres­sive body of work as her Cin­derella-like hero­ine is pulled from pil­lar to post – both phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally – by hu­man and su­per­nat­u­ral ir­ri­tants.

Some­what sur­pris­ingly, her more ex­pe­ri­enced co-stars fare less well. Hid­dle­ston works as a dash­ing Vic­to­rian gen­tle­man but feels like he’s straight-jack­eted by a re­stric­tive role rather than get­ting to cut loose with ma­ni­a­cal glee, ala Loki.

Chas­tain broods but doesn’t con­vince as an ice-cold scorned sib­ling and she and Hid­dle­ston aren’t helped by a so-called twist that is tele­graphed so far in ad­vance the pair would’ve been as well hav­ing it tat­tooed on their fore­heads.

Char­lie Hunnam comes and goes in a mi­nor role un­be­fit­ting his tal­ents and del Toro and Rob­bins’ at­tempts to shoe­horn in ro­mance falls short.

But when they stick to hor­ror, the pair are on sounder foot­ing, not least dur­ing a sur­pris­ing, crazed cli­max.

For true Hal­loween scares, though, get un­der the cov­ers and check out Freddy, Ja­son and Michael My­ers at their orig­i­nal and best in­stead.

Ghostly go­ings-on Mia Wasikowska’s Edith feels the fear

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