Crimson Peak is supposed to be a Gothic horror but what it demonstrates in Gothic it lacks in horror. You can’t fault the look, tone and feel of the movie but at no point does it effectively scare you. This doesn’t make it a bad movie, it just may disappoint those looking for a tense horror.
Crimson Peak makes up for this in an engrossing story. The tale is intriguing, keeping you hooked as the mystery of the English mansion and it’s occupants comes to light. The plot has plenty of twists and turns, with simple revelations and moments of tension, which may raise the pulse slightly but never really make you sweat.
Half the appeal of the plot is definitely the central characters. Mia Wasikowska’s Edith is the audience’s glimpse into this mad-house and because of this is fairly dull and pedestrian, not really having to do any heavy-lifting. The key performances belong to the mysterious Thomas Sharpe, played by Tom Hiddleston and the always creepy Jessica Chastain, playing Thomas’ sister Lucille.
These two performances are what makes the movie so engrossing and will keep the audience guessing. You are never sure of their intentions, their motives or what horrors and secrets both them and the house possess. Hiddleston has shown this creepy, intense performance before but Chastain feels refreshed to be dipping her toe in the horror genre.
Except, it never really feels like a straight horror. Guillermo del Toro wanted to create an old fashioned Gothic horror, relying much more on atmosphere and the suggestion of horror rather than full, cattle-prod scares but it doesn’t do enough to make that happen. The look is excellent and atmospheric, the house a character of it’s own and the way it “bleeds” and comes to life makes you feel the cold as winter comes in full-force.
The actual horror aspect is underwhelming. Del Toro knows how to create characters and use practical effects but here he relies too much on CGI and like any horror film, particularly Mama which he produced, the effects under-cut the scare. At no point does the audiences ever feel like they are supposed to be scared.
This mean that you are watching the plot unfold rather than wondering where it goes or feeling a ride of terror. It is worth the wait for the revelations, although some are predictable, and what should be a unique horror movie does become more of a historic slasher film towards it’s climax.
Overall, Crimson Peak looks the part, has an intriguing and clever plot and some great performances to convey it’s story but lacks the scares. CGI and an attempt to make the movie too “traditional” means that suspense is limited. The story is enough to keep the attention and stave away boredom though.
Rating – 3.5
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