This week, my niece and I went to see the film Crimson Peak. (Rated R).
We were both looking for something scary; and we were both quite pleased with the film. She, because Crimson Peak delivered on it's promise of horror and gore; me, because it was a Gothic romance.
It's the early twentieth century, in Buffalo, New York, and Edith Cushing is more interested in her writing than in balls and society. Also, she sees ghosts -- or at least, saw one ghost, once -- the ghost of her dead mother.
These are not shadowy ghosts, wisps of smoke, faded photographs of dead people. These are rotting corpses, blood and muscle and sinew, in the colors of death: the black of rot, the red of blood. They are bony fingers and sharp fingernails, skeletons and skulls of horror.
So Edith is a bit of a modern girl, and in this she is loved and supported by her father and her childhood friend, Dr. Alan McMichael. In the first frames one can almost see how Edith's life is supposed to play out: the doted on child of a rich father, then the friend becoming love interest, both supporting her writing but their love and comfort keeping her in her safe life, her safe town.
And then they come to down: Sir Thomas Sharpe and his sister, Lucille. When Edith hears of Sir Thomas visiting, she is dismissive, looking down on what she assumes is a spoiled aristocrat. But then she meets him and all I can say is : Tom Hiddleston, in full-on dazzling charm mode, with an accent. Dr. McMichael - Charlie Hunnam without beard, tattoos, or bike - is no competition, especially since Sir Thomas is new, and Alan is known, plus Alan's mother and sister are kind of bitchy. Thomas's sister Lucille may be a bit cold, but she's not as bad as Alan's women folk.
Part of what attracts Edith is she is the wallflower, even though it's by choice. She sits at home, reading and writing, rather than going to balls, and her father is happy with that because it protects her. He sees Thomas as a threat. Her father complains to Edith that Thomas is seeking money and investors, has gone to several countries in his quest for funding, yet his hands are soft. Thomas is soft. Edith sees that Thomas wears good but old clothes; she sees him as an impoverished aristocrat, yes, but one who is trying to turn things around. And he - it seems like he sees her as desirable. He wants her. He looks at her like no one else does -- well, except for poor Alan who just can't compete.
Let's cut to the chase. Edith and Thomas marry, and go back to the family's mansion in England, and soon she starts seeing ghosts. And I don't want to give too much away, but it's a ghost story, of course, so who are these ghosts? And what is going on in this mansion, with areas Edith is warned against entering? And it seems like Thomas and his sister have secrets, many secrets -- what are they?
Why I loved this movie: first of all, it's gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful. The clothes, the settings, whether it's a ballroom in Buffalo or the decrepit mansion, it's just stunning. And the mansion -- it's so dark and mysterious and also falling apart, literally holes in the ceiling and red clay seeping through the floors. The red clay! The house is built on red clay and it seeps into everything, seeps up through the ground so it looks like blood. There are barrels full of it, and it looks like barrels of blood. When the mansion first appears, my niece and I were all "OK, I would turn around and walk right out that door."
But Edith stays. She loves Thomas, and sees the romance of it, and has hope. Hope she holds on to, tight, until the ghosts show up. Also -- to be clear -- she is only slowly discovering she is in danger. Things are shared with the viewer that she doesn't see, and I liked seeing how and when Edith would realize.
Edith! Here is the thing: Yes, she was sheltered. Yes, she was blinded by love (or, possibly, lust. I mean, Thomas is dashing and has an accent.). But she's not stupid. She sees things, she puts things together. She is not passive. (It's actually another thing that the niece and I really liked.)
And there is another thing, that the niece liked. Let's just say she appreciates gore in horror movies, and while Crimson Peak is a more a Gothic romance than horror, the deaths (like the ghosts) are gory. Someone is bludgeoned to death, and it's brutal, and bloody, with torn skin and shattered bone. But here's the thing: it was real. And for all the ghosts and dread, there weren't that many murders shown on screen, so there was enough that it made sense and it shocked like it should, it wasn't too many.
Overall? A thumbs up!!
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy