Are you a horror film fan? It doesn’t matter. You should probably go watch watch Crimson Peak. The film, after all, is both a ghost story with some classic suspense/horror/slasher elements and something else entirely. Here are a number of good (spoiler-filled) reasons why:
1. Those three little words every woman loves to hear: gothic horror romance. Do you like films where female protagonists trail around with perfectly pre-raphaelite hair holding candelabras in the middle of the night? I do. I like them even better when those heroines are accompanied by tiny dogs who warn them when the ghosties are getting close.
2. Do you like films whose directors (in this case, Guillermo del Toro) have said, ‘In this film, I tried to make every man useless’? I do. There’s a lot of debate around the interwebs about just how ‘feminist’ Crimson Peak is. I don’t think it’s beyond feminist critique, but it is sooooo much better than most films. To wit:
- The real conflict in the film is between two women and it ends in a bloody, knock-down, drag-out, shovel-to-the-head brawl
- The ghosts are almost exclusively women who — we find out — are working to help, warn, and defend the protagonist (Edith Sharpe née Cushing, played by Mia Wasikowska)
- Edith is an aspiring novelist (think: mash up between Jo March and Jane Eyre) whose role model is Mary Fucking Shelley. She prefers Shelley to Jane Austen because Shelley ‘died a widow’. (At the end of the film, notably, Edith is a widow and…not dead!)
- At one point Love Interest Dude suggests that Edith close her eyes to dispel her anxiety about dancing in public. She responds, ‘I don’t want to close my eyes. I want to keep them open.’
- Edith gets help from dudes, this is true: her father, her friends, even the ghost of her dead scumbag husband. But I think that actually the ‘Strong Female Character Who Needs Nothing and Nobody’ whilst a perfect acceptable trope, is probably not the only feminist protagonist out there. This film is part coming-of-age story, too: Edith learns when and where she can trustingly accept the help of others, or not.
- Allerdale Hall (creepy haunted house) is in Exotic Cumberland and situated atop a hill of blood-red clay which is mined for bricks. It lends a bright red colour which is obviously supposed to remind the viewer of blood in a very unsubtle, Carrie-ish kind of way. When Edith starts getting her light-coloured garments stained in mud/blood, it’s always a sign that she’s growing up, learning something or figuring something out — basically, progressing as a character.
3. I suppose I should admit that Love Interest Dude is played by Tom Hiddleston, whose voice, figure and SMOULDERING LOOKS need no introduction if you are a living, breathing man-attracted human living in the West in the early 21st century. Other Love Interest Dude Stuck In Friendzone is played by Charlie Hunnam, who does a truly awful American accent and is far too blonde to be my thing, but maybe he’s yours, idk.
Not Quite Love Interest (aka Love Interest Dude’s Incestuous Sister) is played by Jessica Chastain, who is gorgeous and gets all the High Goth costumes.
4. The cinematography is lush. The colour palettes are exaggerated and wonderful, leading the viewer into familiar horror territory. Coupled with the intentionally archaic yet crystal-clear dialogue, it’s as if you’re watching an old black-and-white film from the mid 20th century which has been colour-ified.
5. This film is like an adaptation of a novel-love-child of A. S. Byatt and China Miéville.
6. Here, you can print your own playing cards.
7. There’s a blizzard! Blizzards make Erin happy.
8. Edith is the only one who gets to wear a cape. Like a boss.
9. This film is, at times, unintentionally hilarious. The way in which it employs the ‘Hard-working American tells off slimy, lazy landed aristocrat Brit’ trope is completely OTT. Also, I couldn’t help but see a massive running joke about the awful state of some houses in Britain, particularly Victorian-era houses. Sinking into the ground? Check. Pipes that rattle and produce muddy water? Check. Reasonably friendly kitchen in which to forget the general dread of the rest of the house? Check. TEA EVERYWHERE which may or may not be poisonous? Check.
10. Look, there’s a bible verse above the hearth!
11. Nick Cave and PJ Harvey wrote a cover of song ‘Red Right Hand‘ for the film trailer. I am never quite sure how I feel about super contemporary-sounding trailer music for period film trailers, but I will let Nick Cave and PJ Harvey get away with pretty much anything.
If those 11 things haven’t convinced you to go see this film, I’m not sure what will. Just go see it. You won’t regret it, I promise.