With “Crimson Peak,” yet another risky picture that Universal’s Donna Langley was willing to take a chance on when other studio chiefs balked, Guillermo del Toro has found his sweet spot. The movie is an exhilarating, swirling amalgam of fantasy, horror, and gothic romance. For the first time, the filmmaker is able to merge the creative artistry of his low-budget Mexican films “Chronos” and “Pan’s Labyrinth” with a big-budget studio production without having to stay inside commercial genre conventions.
Whether that will hurt the movie at the box office is another question. Will this find a niche as a specialty film—it may be too hard-R violent for the genteel seniors who populate the art houses these days—or play to a wider audience? Women should eat up the sexy romance between Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska—impeded by a great character turn by Jessica Chastain as Hiddleston’s wicked sister—while there’s plenty of gruesome horror for Del Toro’s core fanbase. The filmmaker boasts plenty of fans, but will they sit still for his tour-de-force romantic waltz sequence? Will they appreciate the technical artistry of the movie’s coherent, innovative design, from elaborate house with constructed camera pathways to the moist clay that seeps under floor boards and foot prints in glistening white snow, red as blood?
Certainly, Del Toro has never made a more gorgeously wrought movie. The detail of the period sets–all character-driven–is Oscar-worthy, as are the directing, cinematography and costumes. Any cinephile has to consider this a must-see for the filmmaking alone.
Read other reviews from around the web below:
Kate Rife, The A.V. Club:
“Billed as a haunted-house horror movie, it’s actually a violent R-rated romance… As in Del Toro’s chilling ‘The Devil’s Backbone,’ the apparitions represent the sins of the past, writ here on a familial instead of a national scale. As such, they’re more tragic than terrifying, which, on the one hand, perfectly fits the swooning Gothic atmosphere. On the other, this means the scariest scenes of the movie appear early on, with diminishing thrills after that.”
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap:
“The insanely lush Gothic romance and ghost story plays like a hitherto unrecorded collaboration between Edgar Allen Poe, Edith Wharton, the designers of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion and whoever directed all those Bonnie Tyler music videos in the 1980s. And while the film boasts a talented ensemble, let’s give credit to the film’s real star: costume designer Kate Hawley (‘Edge of Tomorrow’), who drapes the innocent Edith (Mia Wasikowska) and the duplicitous Lucille (Jessica Chastain) in dresses and nightgowns that perfectly match del Toro’s directorial style here: insanely overdone yet perfectly appropriate.”
Peter Debruge, Variety:
“Aflame with color and awash in symbolism, this undeniably ravishing yet ultimately disappointing haunted-house meller is all surface and no substance, sinking under the weight of its own self-importance into the sanguine muck below… It’s a testament to del Toro’s stature in Hollywood that the studio greenlit this costly R-rated indulgence, far closer in tone to such Spanish-language chillers as ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ and ‘Cronos’ than any of the comicbook and action spectaculars that have since made him a household name in the States.”
Matt Prigge, Metro:
“[D]el Toro’s multitasking often gets the better of him, resulting in films that live for their eye-popping sights but neglect to give them a foundation that will support them. They’re often times just stuff, and lots of it… [‘Crimson Peak’] wants to be an old-school Gothic horror-romance, albeit with more blood and Del Toro’s usual yen for face woundings, but its story often only has the basic elements, as though he was a student doing only the minimum requirements on a project.”