Synopsis: At the close of the 19th century, a young American woman falls for a mysterious Englishman. When she returns with him and his sister to their childhood home, a dilapidated mansion in a desolate area, she soon becomes menaced by supernatural forces.
Oh, the delights and frights of Gothic romance: a plucky heroine, an intriguing man, seduction balanced against a forbidding setting and a dangerous mystery. For Crimson Peak, I hopefully surrendered myself into the hands of Guillermo del Toro who has shown a deft hand with horror and story telling in Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage.
We are introduced to our plucky heroine Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), a denizen of Gilded Age Buffalo, New York. We know that she is plucky because in contrast to the mores of the time, she is interested in a career and not interested in marriage. Furthermore, we know that she is smart because she wears old-timey gold-wired spectacles. On the same day that we meet Edith, her indulgent banker father is refusing a loan to a handsome young inventor from across the pond, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). He has some wacky idea to mine red slop from beneath the family manor. I’m not sure if the red slop is some sort of alternative to coal or, possibly, lipstick material. Just prior to the meeting, Edith met this dandy and was totally agog at Tom’s hotness and plummy English accent.
In spite of poor Tom’s business woes, he sticks around Buffalo to woo fair maiden Edith. He’s accompanied by his creepy sister, Lucille, hilariously portrayed in full villianess mode by Jessica Chastain. She practically trembles with a wicked rage and sneers at lovely Edith. Watch her seethe to see Edith on Tom’s arm as he struts around the city in cool-looking steam punkesque sunglasses. Watch all of Buffalo society bewitched by his elegant waltzing. Oh, Tom, you beautiful English Rose.
But, really, Edith knows nothing about Tom. No matter; he has resplendent cheekbones and sparkling blue eyes! Before you know it, Edith is living across the sea with her new hubby and his psycho sister. Did I mention that their mansion home is creepy? When Tom happily crosses the threshold with his new bride, he exhibits foolish pride in the decaying mess that gives off a decidedly satanic vibe. He gestures grandly to the gaping whole in the roof while sidestepping the red slop that oozes from the floorboards. A normal person might blurt out, “Hey! That looks just like blood!” But, no, our heroine is too naive and besotted.
Days go by and Edith doesn’t have much to do. Tom is busy fiddling with his mining contraptions and sis-in-law Lucille is busy serving kettle after kettle of tea whilst glaring at saintly Edith. But she soon has company: ghosts! But not wispy little phantoms; big mucky-looking skeletons that lurch after her. Naturally she freaks out and weeps to Tom and Lucille that she has to get away from the house. They assure her that she is just going mad. Such a relief.
Now, I don’t want to reveal too much, so I will just say that the rest of the movie involves: 1) male nudity (thank you, Hiddles) and 2) much world class shrieking (thank you, J. Chastain). And, Audience, if a climax is fixing to intersect with a snowstorm? Bet on the girl from Buffalo 😉
Cut to the Chase: Spooky Mansion, you are so scary, driving your pretty inhabitants toward madness
Comedy Highlight: Jessica Chastain’s scenery-chewing diatribes