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The trailer for this movie that played in Australian cinemas is not the one linked below, nor is it the main one that played over in the US (I presume). We had a slightly different trailer. One that showed more dialogue and more of the plot, but didn't reveal too much. It was after watching this trailer that I realised how misleading the advertising for this film was. The trailer played here was made out to be a jump scare marathon, yet all of the footage shown wasn't something you'd typically find in a horror movie. It didn't feel like a Paranormal Activity movie or a Saw movie or whatever crappy horror franchise you want to compare it to, yet it was advertised as one. It was after watching this trailer that I realised Crimson Peak was not a horror movie, and watching the film confirmed that.
Crimson Peak follows the story of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), a young writer with a passion for ghost stories. Her most recent story grabs the attention of Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who almost instantly falls for her. The two get married and ride off to Thomas' family home where he lives with his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Aside from the fact that the house itself is rather run down, the taps all initially spurting out what appears to be blood (or something of the sorts), it starts out well. But Edith slowly begins to fall suspiciously ill, and it doesn't help when there's ghosts roaming around the corridors at night, either.
Like all Guillermo del Toro movies, Crimson Peak is exceptionally beautiful. Not just in the production design, but the cinematography as well. The majority of the movie takes place in this one big house and the design is stunning to look at. It's big, twisted and eerie. It's a house taken right out of another century and it's incredibly convincing. However, it's not just the house that looks good. Every location in this movie does. It's a big and colourful period piece with some truly top notch set design, although that is really to be expected when it comes to a del Toro movie.
The three leads, Wasikowska, Hiddleston and Chastain, are all phenomenal. Wasikowska's character isn't all that investing, but her performance undoubtably is. The problem with her character is that she's set up to be this strong, independent woman, and then as the film goes on she turns into a victim in constant need of help, and it's not until the final scene where she shows some kind of courage and even then it's not all that convincing or of her doing. It just happens and that's that.
As for the unsettling brother-sister duo of Hiddleston and Chastain their characters are much more investing. You feel like you know what they're up to, but you're never 100% sure and it keeps you invested in them. Unfortunately, these two characters are about the only investing aspect of the film and even their arcs and backstories become predictable after a while. While their overall motive is skimmed over, what they're really up to is what I was interested in, and it delivered on that promise. However, just like with Wasikowska's last scene, their final moments on screen feel rather out of character as well. Not so much Hiddleston, but most definitely Chastain.
Like I said earlier, Crimson Peak is far from a horror movie, and the horror aspects honestly feel slightly out of place at times. It's pointed out on multiple occasions that ghosts are merely a metaphor for the past, and the past is a significant theme of this movie, but the ghosts are just so pointless. They show up, they whisper a few things, they point at some other things, they creep the living shit out of Mia Wasikowska and they leave. And then repeat. They look cool, but they don't serve a purpose to the overall narrative, with the exception of one really awkward moment in the second half, and that's one of the only times the ghosts actually show up in the third act.
I really hate to say it, but Crimson Peak is, unfortunately, one of Guillermo del Toro's only flops. He's doing what he loves and he's clearly having fun with it, but the film lacks depth, replacing a solid story with set design. He's ambitious with the film and he's really trying to make it work, but he just can't. It's style over substance. If he was working off of a better script, Crimson Peak could work really well. In fact, it has the potential to be phenomenal, but instead it becomes something quite mediocre.
To sum up, Crimson Peak is a big, colourful and ambitious film with glorious set design and some really, really, really good performances, but there's a lot of style without any substance. Most of the characters aren't investing and the story is all over the place. Sorry, Guillermo, but you've been better.
2 1/2 Stars