Crimson Peak is not a horror story, as much as the marketing for this film seemed to push viewers in that direction. Crimson Peak is actually a gothic romance, and that may or may not turn some people off, especially if you were looking for some scares and some monsters. While there are ghosts to be seen, and some gore, they are part of the story, however they aren’t the focus, or the true menace of the film.
The prologue starts off with a funeral, and a visit from a ghost warning the heroine, a young Edith Cushing, to beware of Crimson Peak. This lets us know there are supernatural events, the sense of the macabre, and a potential danger that has yet to be seen/resolved. While Edith is frightened, and rightfully so, an aspect of this scene
This is not to say Crimson Peak doesn’t have its share of violence, and when its violent, it gets ugly. Far uglier than the ghosts, and very brutal, cruel, and cold. At the heart of this story is romance and crime with a protagonist, Edith, who is swept into perverse events that not only threaten to take her life, but her fortune as well. Edith, our heroine, is a determined author who wants to write more than romance stories as suggested to her that women should write, she does not let the publisher deter her. She looks for other avenues to succeed.
Edith needs that determination, as she is soon in love, and married to Thomas Sharpe, and the intensity of the ghosts appearances intensify. They are indeed gory ghosts, ugly, haunting, and wrapped in tragedy as they try to warn her time and time again about her husband, and their home Crimson Peak. It is a perverse place, and from the decay, we learn of death, and different ways of haunting people. For example, Edith’s discovery and listening to recordings of some of the people who stayed at Crimson Peak highlights past gruesome crimes.
Part of the appeal of the characters comes from their disturbances. For example, Edith can see ghosts, but she is the only one, up to a point. Also Edith’s father never appears as a ghost, despite his violent death. I got the impression Edith doesn’t want to see her father any way but alive. Lucille’s dark persona cracks from time to time as her jealousy of Thomas and Edith’s relationship intensifies. Her propensity for violence and control unleash themselves through the pleasures of death, murder, and deceit, however to view her outwardly is not to see her, or Thomas for whom they truly are.
The true star of this film is the scenery and costumes. This film looks so amazing, from the sets to the clothes. Crimson Peak is a decaying, crumbling manor, that appears to have a life unto itself. The clay seeped into parts of the house to where the floor oozes clay, and the pipes spit out red clay, and resembles blood. The wind howls through corridors, and gives the semblance of breath. Even the decrepit, old rooms possess (no pun intended) a richness in details that capture the feel and weight of an old, decaying home. The characters also have some interesting persona.
If you see this film, please go for the atmosphere, the fantastical elements and the impressive attention to detail/design. They are truly compelling aspects to behold in this film. It is not about horror, and the violence and perversity is explicit. The film does a great job of emphasizing how horrible people can be, and that ghosts reflect the nature of human beings, as well as how actions shape us.