Guillermo Del Toro’s most aesthetically ambitious film in years is also his dullest and dumbest.
In one of Crimson Peak‘s earliest scenes, Mia Wasikowska’s character- referring to a novel she has penned- states “it’s not a ghost story. It’s a story with a ghost in it. The ghost is a metaphor for the past.” One only wishes the ghost story in the film had such complexity, for Crimson Peak is quite possibly the Mexican auteur’s dumbest film- a real feat considering his last directorial venture was robots-vs-Kaiju blockbuster Pacific Rim. But where Pacific Rim, and the terrific Hellboy films, were overflowing with subtext, metaphor, social and cultural commentary, Crimson Peak is a surprisingly hermitic, unsophisticated melodrama with little to offer in the way of… well, anything at all.
The first act of the film, Del Toro’s self-proclaimed “Gothic romance that isn’t a horror film”, sees Wasikowska’s New York daughter-of-a-wealthy-businessman Edith Cushing balance a romance with mysterious aristocrat Sir Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) and a nighttime affair with the ghosts who occasionally drop in to say “hello” and “BEWARE OF CRIMSON PEAK”. As any silly goose would do, Edith heads off to Crimson Peak with Sir Thomas and his blatantly sociopathic sister (Jessica Chastain). Much horror occurs, yet nothing in Crimson Peak sticks. There’s very little suspense and no scares at all. It’s the ultimate Dull Thriller.
Del Toro’s a terribly smart filmmaker with an encyclopaedic knowledge of genre cinema. How he could feel content with releasing such a sub-standard Hollywood shlock-fest in the guise of an “Oscar Season Cinematic Masterwork” is a greater mystery than the primary storyline of Crimson Peak.