"Crimson Peak"

Mia Wasikowska stars in “Crimson Peak,” playing in area theaters now.

We sought out Guillermo del Toro’s latest pic, “Crimson Peak,” for the chills, ghosts, mayhem and thrills. 

We got that — and more. A deep sadness seeped into our bones. Like the characters on the screen.

Del Toro is no stranger to horror films or American audiences. He’s the genius behind films like “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the “Hellboy” films. His Spanish-language horror films have been truly terrifying, especially when someone is dumb enough to watch them alone, like I did.

“Crimson Peak” adheres to that mold. Everything about it is haunting. If you’ve the film’s trailers and posters, you know it’s beautiful.

Everything about the film is visually stunning. The sets, the costumes, the very atmosphere del Toro has created is nothing less than extraordinary at times.

“Crimson Peak” stars Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing, an American heiress who dreams of becoming a famous novelist. She’s rather level-headed and refuses to get caught up in the nonsense of romance and such, even with the attentions of a handsome doctor (“Sons of Anarchy’s” Charlie Hunnam) turned her way. Honestly, it’s pretty amazing she’s so normal considering she sees dead people — no, this isn’t a sequel to “The Sixth Sense.”

Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) waltzes into her life, hoping to land her father (“Supernatural’s” Jim Beaver) as an investor in his clay company. A whirlwind romance and a homicide later, Edith and Thomas are headed to his English estate as newlyweds. I have to be honest, Hiddleston is so charming — and passionate — in this role, I don’t blame Edith one little bit for clinging to him for comfort.

Unfortunately, they aren’t alone. Thomas’s super creepy sister, Lucille, (Jessica Chastain) is their roommate and rarely leaves her brother’s side. Her jealousy at this intruder in their lives is barely — or rarely — contained.

There’s something sinister about the Sharpes and Edith’s new home. It could be the bloody, creepy ghosts that keep popping up. Or maybe it’s the fact the house is as emaciated as the spirits it hosts. The ceilings and floors have fallen into a state of decay that allows the outside world to intrude. Leaves and snow fall through holes that run clear up to the roof. While below, the red clay of the land seeps up into the floorboards.

It’s a red goo that’s reminiscent of coagulated blood, which is fitting for the film, I suppose — and that’s also the most graphic thing I’ve written in a review, thus far.

Edith knows something is amiss, but she can’t quite figure it out. Are the scarlet specters haunting her, leading her to her doom or warning her away from it?

“Crimson Peak” is an interesting film. It’s twisted and disturbing and haunting, no pun intended. It’s also not among del Toro’s best work. The man is a visionary. He creates magical worlds and teleports his audience to them.

With “Crimson Peak,” he’s created a world of horror, sorrow and love. There’s a certain sad beauty in the film he’s created. The red clay slowly seeps up through the snow outside the Sharpes’ home, painting the land’s still whiteness with spatters of red, eventually darkening every flake to a bright, bloody crimson — thus the nickname (and title) given to the estate.

The film probably isn’t as scary as I think it is. I don’t do well with things that jump out of walls or scary films, in general. (Sometimes, I have to look away at horror trailers, too.) Luckily, I had someone that was completely content to let me shield my eyes and squeeze him like my life depended on it. After the movie, he noted it wasn’t that scary, and I partially agreed. Kind of. I might have been lying.

Honestly, the true horror of the film lies in the motivations of the characters. Monsters aren’t always ghosts and goblins. Sometimes, they’re human beings who we can label “monsters” like Hannibal Lecter. Sometimes, they’re human beings whose actions — as depraved, taboo and vile as they might be — are understandable, making their deeds even more terrifying as we identify with them.

“Crimson Peak” produces villains who fit firmly into the second category. Every action that takes place in the film is driven by emotion. Love. Jealousy. Anger. Greed. Hate. They’re all-consuming, all empowering entities that can control us, whether we want them to or not.

Del Toro’s career has been dedicated to these ‘monsters.’ He finds the humanity in inhuman characters, whether it’s a demon who is supposed to end the world, ghosts or vampires. He makes us care about them in a way that has rarely been seen for the past half-century, roughly coinciding with the end of Universal’s monster-making efforts.

The writer-director hasn’t created vile characters like in this one for a while. Capt. Vidal, the evil stepfather in “Pan’s Labyrinth,” comes close, but he didn’t have the creepy, slimy demeanor of the Sharpes. They’re straight out of a Gothic novel, same as every character in this film.

While the genre hasn’t been in vogue for quite some time, del Toro manages at times to create an argument for its revival. It’s emotional, luscious and relevant to a degree that far too many modern films fail to reach. And, it’s these successes that make the overall product so hard to stomach. Far too many things don’t work on reflection whether they’re considered on an artistic, dramatic or thematic basis.

However, I can’t fault the maestro for failing to deliver something on par with his Spanish-language features — “Cronos,” “The Devil’s Backbone” and “The Devil’s Backbone” — or superior Hollywood fare like “Hellboy” and “Hellboy II: The Golden Army.” He aims for greatness every time, and I can’t fault him for falling short once in a while — even if this is two in a row after “Pacific Rim.” As a fangirl, I guess that I see this one as akin to “Mimic,” something that is good but incomplete.

Check out and decide for yourself.

Amanda Greever is the editorial production manager of The Daily Times. Contact her at amanda.greever@thedailytimes.com, follow her on Twitter @agreever_editor and Like Weekend on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dailytimesweekend.

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