Saturday, April 15, 2017

New Gothic Movie Review: Crimson Peak

As you know, I adore Gothic literature. Anne Radcliffe, Jane Austen, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, and the new Gothic offerings of this generation of writers.  

Finding a Gothic Movie that's worth watching is another matter.  There are a lot of bad ones. 

I recently watched Crimson Peak, a new Gothic tale starring Tom Hiddleston (Loki), and Mia Wasikowski (Jane Eyre, Alice in Wonderland).  I missed it in the theater, and bought it a while back, but never managed to get around to watching it. I had bought season six of Downton Abbey along with this one, so of course I watched Downton first.

All I can say is  . . . . wow!  This is what a Gothic flick should be. 

The elements were all there, mysterious, dangerous love interest (Hiddleston), and the spooky, isolated home with an intriguing atmosphere that will bring chills---literally, as there is constantly snow or rain falling through the roof. Brrr.  You feel cold just watching Edith (Wasikowski) trying to find warmth in this odd and ill maintained Gothic mansion. Add to that the constant uncertainty about what is actually happening, the many ghostly appearances to Edith at the old manor, and the odd relationship between brother and sister, and you're kept on the edge of your seat. Something is very wrong at Allendale Estates, but you aren't sure what. The plot, and the danger is slowly revealed with very subtle and clever clues.

The story starts with Edith as a rich girl in America who wants to be a writer. It's about 1880. She's born into a wealthy home. Her father is a businessman and worked his way up from nothing, no silver spoon in his mouth. He's successful, and Edith lives in luxury in his well maintained, well staffed manor house.  Edith tells us in the opening segment that "Ghosts are real!"

She then goes on to share her one encounter with a ghost, her mother's ghost, after her mother's funeral. She was just a little girl when this occurred, and it's creepy scary. Mom appears, but in a state of decay, not the pretty type of ghosts we usually see. And this is where this movie is so unique for a Gothic Horror Romance.  The ghosts are UGLY, creepy and gross. They are scary because they are so ugly, they reflect their physical form, as in badly decayed and decomposed. But, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Back to Edith, and the opening. After we are introduced to her world, rich girl, mother is dead, daddy is rich, we learn that she doesn't just want to go to dances like other young women her age and see and be seen. No, Edith has a passion, a dream. She wants to be a writer. She's written a manuscript, a ghost story, and her father arranges for her to see a publisher with it.  She goes, and is turned away, as the old gentleman suggests maybe she should write a romance, instead. Edith sighs and leaves, but continues to work on her manuscript at home.

She has a childhood friend who is a doctor, and he's sweet on her. She doesn't see him as anything but a friend, to his chagrin. A handsome stranger from England comes to her father's company asking for a loan, for support in an invention for mining that he needs backing for. This man is a baronet, Sir Thomas Sharpe. He charms Edith, and after a few meetings, he wants to marry her. But Daddy interferes, and then Daddy dies mysteriously.

Edith marries Sir Thomas, and goes to England to live at his estate. When you see the house, you'll be struck dumb with amazement!  The movie crew built this house just for the movie. It's not a movie set, its a bonafide Victorian mansion, complete with working bathrooms and an elevator. It's very, very Gothic!  Atmospheric as you've never encountered before. The house has a distinct personality.  As I said before, it's in disrepair. So our heroine, Edith, goes from a cozy mansion that is well maintained to a shoddy mansion where the roof is open and the weather actually comes in. Rain, snow, and what appears at times to be soot. Sir Thomas owns a mine, and the earth around his home is blood red. It's clay. The locals call the place Crimson Peak in the winter, as the red clay bleeds through the snow, giving the landscape an eerie feel. Blood red. There's a metaphor there.

Of course, Sir Thomas and his sister, Lucille, are hiding something sinister there at the old manor. They are the only ones at the home, aside from Edith. Strangely, there are no servants at the house, at least none shown in the movie, aside from Finlay, the outside servant. Lucille, the sister, is cold and distant. She constantly is making Edith tea, however, and after a while, you get a little creeped out by that. A little too eager to hand over a cup a tea whenever Edith is upset.

There is plenty to be upset about, by the way. Edith is in a strange land. Well, England, but this version of England is anything but welcoming. The landscape around the estate is stark. Nothing much grows, due to the red clay.  She's in a big, big house that is empty, save her husband and his sister, and the house is falling apart. It seems to be sinking slowly into the earth, a nod to Poe's Fall of the House of Usher here. The house actually groans at times, and pipes rattle. Edith is rattled. She can't put her finger on what is wrong with the place, or her new family. And then there are the ghosts who pop up and try to warn her. At least, after a while she and you will realize that's what they are doing. At first it seems they are just trying to scare her.

And make no mistake, Edith is in grave danger. Is it the house that is trying to harm her? Sir Thomas, who seems genuinely enthralled with her but has a deeper motivation for marrying her than love? Or is it that demented sister of his? Something is very wrong in this place, and if you love atmospheric Gothic Suspense and horror, you'll be thrilled.  As all good Heroines in Gothic Stories, Edith starts to investigate her surroundings, in secret, of course. She travels the dark corridors with candlestick in hand, fearful but determined to make sense of her situation.

Silver Lining;  Edith's childhood friend, the doctor, is suspicious over her father's death, and decides to investigate. We are told in an early segment that he likes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's works, as in Sherlock Holmes. Will he arrive in time to save Edith from the horrors of Crimson Peak?

My rating:  A+.  There is so much to love about this flick!  Good storyline that is NOT too obvious. You'll be struggling to put together the pieces here, like a good mystery.  Stellar cast, EPIC setting and filming, and some pretty scary and creepy ghosts to keep you jumping out of your seat. Destined to become a classic.

If you'd like to see some to the set images, click the link below:

Image Gallery for the Movie Crimson Peak

Video Trailer:

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