‘A house as old as this one becomes, in time, a living thing. It starts holding onto things… keeping them alive when they shouldn’t be. Some of them are good; some of them bad… Some should never be spoken about again.’
From 2015, comes this beautiful Gothic romance directed by Guillermo Del Toro, recently added to Netflix. At time of its release, the film was inaccurately advertised as a horror movie – whilst it has moments of horror, it is first and foremost a Gothic movie. The Gothic movement in film was most prevalent in 1940s Hollywood, with films including Rebecca, The Spiral Staircase and Gaslight (to name but a few) following the narrative of the Bluebeard fairy-tale. These films reflected the tension and uncertainty of the time period, with lead female characters being isolated and controlled, given firm instructions to avoid what or where is forbidden. With Crimson Peak, Del Toro has created a beautiful homage that is visually stunning and rich in terms of storytelling.
Set in 1887 Buffalo, American heiress Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is visited by what appears to be her deceased mother, warning her to ‘Be aware of Crimson Peak.’ Soon after a mysterious English baronet (played by Tom Hiddleston) comes to town and woes Edith, swiftly marrying her and bringing her to his estate. They arrive at Allerdale Hall, the Sharpes’ dilapidated mansion in Cumberland, which is steadily sinking into the red clay mine it sits atop. Away from everything she has ever known, married to an increasingly cold husband and trapped with his intimidating sister (played by Jessica Chastain) Edith begins to be haunted by the house – will she make it out alive?
At two hours long, Crimson Peak manages to do so much with its running time. It’s delightfully creepy, unashamedly and unabashedly melodramatic, with sumptuous costumes & sets and exquisite cinematography. Winning the Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture for ‘The Shape Of Water’ in 2018 removed any doubts that Del Toro is a true auteur. With his films he takes the audience on a journey to another realm that we are fully immersed in and find the greatest beauty within. Then the credits roll and we are returned – shaken, frightened, bleary-eyed yet grinning from ear to ear. Go watch Crimson Peak and experience this haunting ride for yourself.