Crimson Peak, the movie you shouldn’t watch this Halloween


Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 1.29.01 PMGrade: D

Starring Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain, “Crimson Peak” brings us the story of Edith (Mia Wasikowska), a young and rich girl who, after losing her father, marries a wealthy suitor she believes to be the love of her life. Tormented by ghosts since childhood, Edith’s real nightmares begin when she moves to England to live in a gothic mansion with her husband Thomas Sharpe and his sister (Hiddleston and Chastain).

Of all things that make up “Crimson Peak”, almost none of them works. It’s a drama, fantasy, horror, and I found myself excited by none of them. The drama is cliché to the bones and can be found in several gothic/romantic novels. Likewise, fantasy has been perfected by studios (Disney) and directors (Tim Burton comes to mind) and this film offers nothing better nor different. Finally, you’ll not find yourself jumping out of your seat with the thin horror of “Crimson Peak”.

The only high point of “Crimson Peak” is the production design. Sets are extravagant and yet ghastly. The gothic atmosphere is everywhere in England and evokes the memories of all great novels that had their stories set under those cloudy skies, such as “Jane Eyre”. The mood is perfect and prone for a great drama/horror tale. You won’t find it in “Crimson Peak” though.

It would have been fine for director Guillermo del Toro to focus more on one of the genre or another. The problem is in a mix where no genre is used to its best. The root of this problem is in the screenplay. The first hour of the film felt like 10 or 15 pages were spread into 60. I began thinking about Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece “Psycho” where all the horror, thriller and suspense are already well set up by early on in the film. As a more recent example, “Scream” has a fantastic opening which thrusts viewers right into the action.

Things do get better once we get to England for the second half. The house sits on red clay, which seeps through the floor cracks and helps foment the mood of the film. Here, there is also a scene where del Toro uses the Stanley Kubrick’s one-point perspective – one of his visual hallmarks – which reminded me of the long hallways in “The Shining”. The camera approaches Edith slowly as she takes a bath: a creepy voyeur scene that is the best dramatic and thrilling moments of the film, in addition to, of course, being a beautiful homage.

The acting suffers from the poor script. (Spoiler alert!) When Thomas suddenly turns into a good character at the end of the film, his acting doesn’t change enough. He’s still the same, making us wonder if the performance suffers more at the beginning or at the end of the film. Wasikowska and Chastain also have difficulties extracting anything meaningful from the script. Their characters are just limited by good and evil, leaving them no room to work at the different layers that make up real personality and behavior.

“Psycho”, “The Shining”, “Scream”, “The Sixth Sense” are some of the films that would be on my list for Halloween. However, the odd mix of “Crimson Peak” where no genre, drama, horror or fantasy, really excels is definitely one you should pass. Just pretend it was a ghost that didn’t exist.


  1. Let people decide for themselves whether a movie is good or bad. Sometimes it depends on your mood or experience. My friends and I enjoyed it. We live in the Philippines because this kind of movie is rare to us.

  2. It was mismarked by the studio so American audiences would go see it. Which is a terrible thing. I saw it again last night, in an American theatre, and the people there were plenty scared, and seemed to enjoy it plenty, so I don’t really know what you’re harping on about.

  3. I liked this movie it was different. If you like the same ol’ horror then you will hate this movie. If you like daring and weird then this is for you.

  4. I’d like to disagree. Crimson Peak is one of the freshest take on the horror genre for a while now. It pays homage to the roots of the horror genre, the Ghothich cinema (from Nosferatu to Frankenstein). Absolutely enjoyed every single frame of it. You don’t see movies like this anymore in theatres because of all the Hollywood tentpole blockbusters.

  5. Just watched it and thought it was somewhat good and the movies your comparing it to the only good movie is the shining. I think everyone has their own option which i strongly believe people need to watch it and see for yourself.

  6. I do not understand how as a writer, Mr Mattos, you are allowed to write and publicize your work without doing the proper research. In about every interview with the cast and the director, they explicitly state that the movie is a GOTHIC ROMANCE. They state in about every interview that it is a twisted love story that just so happens to contain ghosts. In no circumstance do Guillermo, Jessica, Tom, or Mia classify this movie as a horror movie. This movie is not meant to inflict hair raising scares. You cannot compare this movie with “The Shining” or “Psycho” or even “Scream” (which by the way shows your incompetence as a movie critic if you think “Scream” is of the same caliber as “The Shining” or “Psycho” but I digress). I find it ironic that you even said “The drama is cliché to the bones and can be found in several gothic/romantic novels,” because you hit the nail on the head on the genre of the movie, yet you failed to properly investigate and research the fact that this was Guillermo del Toro’s intention.

  7. The fact that the studio chose to market this film as a horror film, and not the Gothic romance that it is, is unfortunate. It is also unfortunate that this writer can’t see beyond that. Yes, the script has a few issues. Yes the first half is slow, with a great deal of establishing going on. However, the last 25 minutes is set at a blinding pace… Something he failed to mention. Also, to call into question the acting and to say that any of them did less than a superb job is astonishing. Were we watching the same film? Did he really not understand that Thomas’ character alters only slightly to underscore all the repression and stuff that has come before? No spoilers. Is he really not seeing all the multi-leveled unraveling that Jessica Chastain did as her character? Wow! Seriously? Come on!

  8. I saw this last night because it was a ” Gothic thriller”. Meaning that it would not be a Gore fest nor a fast paced action flic. And it delivered for everyone in the room. I watched men and women leaning forward in their seats and jumping in all the right spots. Yes, the first part was a bit longer than need be but it was very well done so that you actually understood the story line and invested in the characters. What a concept! I really think next time you should actually watch the movie with an adult to explain what you’re watching.

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