Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast and the Land of the Creeps horror podcast. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.
In a recent interview with Wired, Guillermo Del Toro listed his five favorite horror films, the first two of which, The Haunting and The Innocents, are ghost stories (for the record, the other 3 were Alien, Jaws, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). That’s not to say his 2015 offering Crimson Peak is, as some have stated, a haunted house movie; in fact, Del Toro himself has resisted calling it a horror film at all (“You have to fear the living more than the dead”, he said during this same interview, and the movie itself was designed to support this theory). But with its gothic sensibilities and gorgeous production values, as well as a handful of intensely creepy scenes, the director has, indeed, delivered a beautiful, if somewhat trite, ghost story that’s sure to give you at least a few shivers.
It’s the turn of the 20th century, and British nobleman Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) has come to Buffalo, New York, to ask businessman Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) to finance his newest invention, a steam-powered machine that will revolutionize the clay mining industry. Unimpressed with both his presentation and Sharpe himself, Carter refuses, and is further annoyed to learn that the Englishman has started courting his only daughter Edith (Mia Wasikowska). In an effort to end their romance, Carter bribes both Sharpe and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), who accompanied her brother to America, to depart for England as soon as possible. But when Carter dies in a mysterious accident, it clears the way for Edith to marry Sharpe and return with him to his ancestral home.
Alas, Cumberland’s Allerdale Hall, which has been in the Sharpe family for hundreds of years, has fallen into disrepair; aside from the gaping hole in the ceiling, the pipes have slowly rotted away, allowing the red clay from the ground to seep into the water supply. Still, Edith is determined to make the best of the situation and be a good wife to Edward. But the spirits are active in Allerdale Hall, and visit Edith on a regular basis, as if trying to warn her that Edward and Lucille are not what they appear to be.
Story-wise, Crimson Peak is nothing new. Anyone familiar with the work of Edgar Allan Poe will be able to predict most of the film’s twists and turns well in advance (the legendary author was especially fond of bizarre sibling relationships and dark romance, both of which figure prominently in this movie). But what Crimson Peak lacks in originality, it makes up for in style. The scene in which Edith enters Allerdale Hall for the first time is one of the film’s strongest, and shows off the fine work done by Del Toro’s production crew (the house, though vast, is quite ominous, and has leaves, which came in through the hole up above, blowing all around).
Even the early scenes in Buffalo are visually impressive, and perfectly recreate the period in which the film is set. As for the ghosts of Allerdale Hall, each one is bright red, and brought to life by Doug Jones (via motion capture), who also played the Fawn in Pan’s Labyrinth and Abe Sapien in the Hellboy series. Creeping through the halls while at the same time distorting his body in an otherworldly manner, Jones gives the film its spooky vibe, and, along with Jessica Chastain (whose quite good as the overbearing Lucille), brings us to the edge of our seat whenever one of his characters is on-screen.
In the end, watching Crimson Peak was a lot like re-reading my favorite Poe story: the surprises may not be fresh, but it still left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
— Dr. Shock
Don’t miss Jay and Josh’s podcast reviews of Crimson Peak on
Horror Movie Podcast Episode 76 “Crimson Peak (2015) and We Are Still Here (2015) and Stung (2015) and The Final Girls (2015)” and further discussion on our Top 10 Horror Movies of 2015 show.
Links for Dr. Shock:
Dave’s daily movie review website: DVDInfatuation.com
Follow Dave on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation
Like Dave’s DVD Infatuation now on: Facebook
Dr. Shock also appears on this horror podcast: Land of the Creeps
Voicemail: (801) 382-8789
Subscribe to Horror Movie Podcast free in iTunes