Three quid in Fop Edinburgh, how could I resist?
Guillermo Del Toro’s lusciously photographed Gothic Horror is absolutely lovely to look at, but more of that later. Basically the story concerns American heiress Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) who is hoodwinked into marrying Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddlestone and yes Flowers you do get to see his arse) a hard up english aristo who lives in a run down palace with his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain).
Built on a kind of runny blood-red clay, that seeps into everything. The house is subsequently known as Crimson Peake and Sir Thomas needs Edith’s cash to finance his red clay mining machine, and the only thing keeping Edith alive is the fact that she has yet to sign the legal document that transfers her money over to Sir Thomas. As if the slow acting poison Lucille is putting into Edith’s tea isn’t enough for her to worry about the house is haunted by a spirit who has a bit of previous with Thomas and Lucille.
Enough about the plot, which is pretty standard haunted house stuff, what I liked about the movie was the imagery created by production designer Thomas E Sanders and costume designer Kate Hawley. A lot has been said about how this is Del Toro’s love letter to Hammer gothic and sure Edith Cushing’s surname is a tribute to Hammer star Peter, but it strikes me that the imagery is not so much Hammer gothic as a pre-Raphaelite Gothic, just compare Mia Wasikowska’s costume and hair here,
to John Everett Millais 1851 painting The Bridesmaid
Whereas Jessica Chastain’s character Lucille’s visual identity,
seems to be derived more from one of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s paintings using Jane Morris as a model .
While the overall set design owes a lot to the neo gothic of Augustus Pugin filtered though Jean Cocteau and even Walt Disney. The whole film is shot in gorgeous saturated colour that is not so much the garish colour palette of Hammer, but more the exuberance of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger , while the ghost effects are clearly very influenced by more recent J and K horrors and the machinery very steampunk. Very nicely acted there are some pretty gruesome moments in Crimson Peak, but as with the best supernatural movies a lot of the work is implied for your own imagination.
A gloriously indulgent Victorian chiller I give Crimson Peak a 555/666