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Hollywood rewind | Crimson Peak: Tom Hilddleston, Mia Wasikowska’s Victorian Gothic Tale is Stunning and Atmospheric

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There are films that are generally entertaining and can be of interest to almost anyone, and then there are the others, which can appeal to a niche audience and their tastes. Take for example the work of Mexican-American filmmaker Guillermo del Toro. His films aren’t for everyone, not because they don’t speak to audiences, but because they don’t speak to many of us. However, those who enjoy dark fantasy and a certain subversion of the supernatural genre usually find del Toro’s features right up their alley.

When his 2015 film Crimson Peak was about to be released, the internet was buzzing as niche or not, del Toro is a renowned director and his project starred emerging Hollywood stars like Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and the Alice in Wonderland actress Mia Waskikowska. The names alone got me excited, and the specials only made that feeling worse. Although it didn’t go up on a large scale, Crimson Peak was a delight from start to finish, as far as I’m concerned. There have been reviews of the plot not holding much water and the ghostly chills not holding any weight, but Crimson Peak was not meant to be consumed as a horror thriller. It’s a beautifully crafted Gothic romance with charismatic runways and standout visuals.

The production on Crimson Peak was on point, every detail carefully crafted. And the haunted house was the icing on the cake, the set piece champion. As Hiddleston’s character, Sir Thomas Sharpe, put it at one point, “the house becomes a living being”. With Lucille de Chastain and Edith de Mia, this secular house was a character in its own right. Interact with the heroine, invent against her current owners, crawl with the minds of those who once possessed her.

Leaning towards Edith and leading her, warning her of what was to come; the house played a big part in everything. However, looking for faults in the script was justifiable to some extent. The story could have been more precise, could have had more layers. Sometimes the whole thing seemed too thinly veiled, too predictable. But the visuals, oh so clean, so pretty, so scary! Everything you would expect from a subversive Gothic romance set in the Victorian era. Kudos to Danish cinematographer Dan Laustsen for delivering the story through such sharp camera work. And presumably, the movie couldn’t have been easy to shoot, especially since the house (where most of the action takes place) is still shrouded in darkness.

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Let’s also talk for a moment about the actors, because they give more weight to the story with their talent. There was Tom Hiddleston, riding his ‘Loki’ wave, who tried to show his fans that he is more than a shape-shifting supernatural being, and that he had more edge and charisma to offer, which he did, via Crimson Peak. As a man torn between his sister and his new wife, the old ways and the new, Hiddleston was truly believable as a gray character unable to make up his mind. Meanwhile, Jessica Chastain, who played her sister in the film, was perfectly portrayed as the evil, knife-wielding woman, jealous, possessive and vicious. You didn’t want Edith to make fun of her for her own good. And finally a good word for our heroine, the underrated Australian actress Mia Wasikowska. She was brilliant from the start. Ladylike and delicate when she needed to be and a strong person who knew how to fight her battles, Mia brought all kinds of nuance to something that many could have played in one tone throughout the film.

Whatever the flaws of the film, Crimson Peak was most definitely a female-centric tale. Mia was the hero and heroine of the film, while Jessica’s Lucille was the villain. A Victorian tale of blood, lust and romance focusing exclusively on women, how often do we see this come to life? Plus, when you have the great Stephen King singing the praises of your movie, you know you’ve done something worthwhile.

You can watch Crimson Peak on Google Play.

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