Universal Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Grade: C+
Director:  Guillermo Del Toro
Written by:  Guillermo Del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jim Beaver, Leslie Hope
Screened at: Regal E-Walk, NYC, 10/13/15
Opens:  October 16, 2015

Guillermo Del Toro, whose “Pan’s Labyrinth” is superior fare largely because it has a political theme (the daughter of a brutal army officer escapes from Falangist Spain in 1944 into a fantasy world), but while Del Toro compares his new picture, “Crimson Peak” to “Jane Eyre,” “Rebecca,” and “Great Expectations,” this is true only to one extent.  “Jane Eyre” (one movie version stars Mia Wasikowska) is about a woman who serves as a governess in an imposing house; “Rebecca” takes place in a mansion on the Cornish coast, in every corner of which is a phantom of time lost but not forgotten; “Great Expectations” is a classic work of Victorian literature, a coming-of-age story.  “Crimson Peak” is all of this: a coming-of-age of an innocent virgin in the early years of the twentieth century like Jane Eyre and Rebecca who enter into lives previous removed from their experience.  But the classics cited by Del Toro have stirring narratives.  They were not merely costume dramas using Gothic effects to hide the absence of an assured drama and the presence of wholesale repetition.  (Gothic refers to stories enveloped by gloom, mystery and the grotesque.)  No question: “Crimson Peak” abounds in beautiful costumes, with Mia Wasikowska in the role of Edith Cushing wearing a greater variety of clothing that Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaigns.  And the mansion, set in Cumberland, England, looks authentically Gothic, a crumbling structure with leaves falling through the roof, red clay oozing from the floor, and bugs slithering about seeking shelter from the cold, European winter.

“Crimson Peak” also features a substantial performance from the 26-year-old Canberra, Australian-born Mia Wasikowska, a rising star with a resumé including title roles in “Jane Eyre,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Madame Bovary.”  This is a period drama filmed in Pinewood Toronto Studios and in Hamilton and Kingston, Ontario, where the men work outdoors with machines while dressed in suits when they are not in full formal wear at posh affairs.  And the women wear nightgowns more showy and luxurious than candidates for Academy Awards don during Oscar night.

But the story lacks a compelling narrative, relying on the occasional presence of scary, if kitschy ghosts, and dialogue that’s predictable and redundant.

Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) can see dead people.  She is frightened by her first experience at the age of about eight in Buffalo, New York, when she is visited briefly by the ghost of her mother.  And she writes about what she knows, mysteries featuring ghosts which, she states, act only as metaphors to represent the past.  Her manuscripts are rejected because she is a woman and women can’t write mystery stories, or so she is told, and she gives herself away because her handwriting is “feminine.”  Though her father, Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) expects her to marry a family friend and ophthalmologist Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), he is too bland for her taste.  She rather casts her troth at Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who is described as a baronet—a title which, it’s convenient to note, is awarded by the British Crown like a knight  but ranks above all knighthoods except for the Order of the Garter and the Order of the Thistle.  When Edith and Sir Thomas demonstrate the “European style” of waltz to an appreciative crowd of aristos, she is smitten, though her dead mother warns her to be careful and her father finds himself disliking the baronet because something “does not seem right.”

So of course she marries Sir Thomas, heads to his manor in Cumberland, England, miles from the nearest neighbor, and is welcomed by Sir Thomas’s sister, Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain).  But something is not right about Lucille either.  In a film that’s more dialogue than melodramatic passages, but whose dialogue is repetitious and melodramatic passages are predictable, “Crimson Peak” slogs along, scaring nobody, but evoking audience screams from an extended bloody conclusion.

Rated R.  119 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C-
Acting – B-
Technical – B+
Overall – C+


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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