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CRIMSON PEAK Review – Ghosts and Deception Make an Interesting Marriage

Samantha Mannion says Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak explores relationships, dark secrets, desire, and deceit.

Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing-Sharpe in CRIMSON PEAK (2015), directed by Guillermo Del Toro.
Courtesy of Legendary Pictures and Universal

Director Guillermo del Toro and writing partner Matthew Robbins created a love story, a gothic romance, and a haunting unlike any other with Crimson Peak. Starring Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, and Charlie Hunnam. The film explores relationships, dark secrets, desire, and deceit. In the chilling words of Lucille (Chastain), “The horror—the horror was for love.”

Crimson Peak follows Edith (Wasikowska), charmed by baronet Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston), in a whirlwind courtship during the industrial boom of early 20th century New York. Following her father's untimely death, Edith marries Thomas and is swept away to live with him and his sister Lucille at Allerdale Hall—an isolated, dark, and deteriorating mansion. After arriving, Edith notices supernatural disturbances in the house and questions its dark history, the death of their mother, and her feelings of unease.

A core theme explored is deceit and ulterior motives. Throughout the film, the audience is clued in that something is brewing under the surface. We know the Sharpes are scheming, and they’re using Edith to get something. Everyone in Edith’s life seems to be taking advantage of her trusting nature. It’s easy to empathize with Edith—she is constantly lied to by those she loves. Her protective father attempts to sever her relationship with Thomas after discovering his feelings may be disingenuous.

In contrast, Thomas and Lucille have a much darker plot in mind for her. Unfortunately, the truth is revealed at a painfully slow rate. It ultimately feels that nothing has occurred to progress the narrative due to its pacing.

Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing-Sharpe in CRIMSON PEAK (2015), directed by Guillermo Del Toro.
Courtesy of Legendary Pictures and Universal

The female characters are deeply engaging. Resembling Jo March from Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women (1868), Edith lives in a society that does not view women as equal to men in any respect, especially in their intellect and ability. Women's voices ultimately cry out before being silenced by the men in charge. Edith is creative, intelligent, intuitive, and trusting to a fault. While endearing, that proves to be her downfall.

From the first time Lucille appears on screen, she is wearing a striking, immaculate red dress, demanding to be noticed, urging the audience to discover more about her. We can’t help but wonder what she’s hiding beneath the perfect facade. Both women have a deep connection to the spirit world, depicted in scenes with Edith receiving messages from her dead mother and the spirits of Allerdale Hall. Lucille has ties to the people in the house—her mother is one of the ghoulish creatures that haunt its corridors. We watch as Lucille’s stern demeanor darkens at the mention of her mother. Their connection to the dead symbolizes their empathy and ability to relate to other people, and whether they use that for good or bad is the question.

One crucial insight into these women's personalities is their clothes: Kate Hawley, the costume designer, created clothing as a quintessential aspect of each woman. Edith wears light colors like cream, yellow, and gold that portray her innocence and naïveté. As the story grows darker, her clothes do as well. The soft colors are slowly consumed by darkness, just like Edith herself. In contrast, Lucille enters the film in a striking red dress before revealing herself in dark colors for the remainder of the film. Her character is shrouded in mystery, which her wardrobe reflects—allowing her to blend into the shadows. The costumes are rich in detail, gorgeous, and bring added information.

Crimson Peak boasts several vital elements: the cast delivers solid and moving performances, it’s visually stunning, and the story is haunting and ominous. However, the somewhat meandering narrative can make it difficult to remain interested and engaged.

Crimson Peak is now streaming on Netflix.



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