‘Crimson Peak’ graces theaters with dark, elegant imagery

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By Lisa Nault
Staff Writer

Director Guillermo del Toro is known for his gothic fantasy style when it comes to his films, and “Crimson Peak” is no exception.

Photo of the Sharpe mansion in Crimson Peak

“Crimson Peak” provides audiences with creepy and aesthetically pleasing imagery. (Photo from MoviePlot.com)

The atmosphere provided by the cinematography is a perfect blend of comfort and chaos. For instance, the house where the Sharpe siblings live is immense in stature yet is falling in on itself. The estate has numerous rooms, grand staircases, and intricate architecture. It also has a giant hole in the roof, the walls are covered with fading wallpaper and dripping with red clay, and the floor is beginning to sink.

There is a strange sense of beauty to the house’s decay — a beauty similar to that of the ghosts Edith can see. The designs of the ghosts are both complex and simple in nature, returning to Edith as hazy skeletons.

Edith’s mother, who is dead when the movie begins, returns to her wearing a black dress and veil that match her black skull and bony fingers. Later, ghosts appear to Edith as bright red, contorted, people with missing limbs or broken bones. Viewers may want to avert their eyes when the ghosts creep out of the shadows but still feel compelled to watch these creatures move through their environment.

The fascinating idea behind the ghosts is that they are not monsters; they are the same people they were when they were alive but are cursed with the barrier between worlds. It is difficult for them to communicate exactly what they want from Edith. When they speak, they scream and groan. When they want to lead Edith to a location, they have to make her follow them or chase her towards the right path.

The ghosts are also cursed with the causes of their deaths. For instance, a rather brutal murder will cause the ghost to return as they had died — broken. They exist in the world because they are connected to it through their rage, pain, misery, or love. By making the apparent monsters more human, del Toro does a great job making the audience question where the real monsters lie.

The answer may be obvious to some but the story is not a cookie-cutter horror tale. The ghosts are metaphors. Edith explicitly states the ghosts represent the past. The main story is a gothic love tale. The relationship between Edith, Thomas, and Lucille creates the suspense and plot development of the film. There are secrets, mysteries, and lies that slowly unravel the further the movie progresses. There are twists that some viewers can guess but there are other surprises that not everyone expects.

In terms of gore, the movie does not shy away from brutal murders. There are few cuts between shots during these harsh moments, which forces the viewer to be the one to shield their eyes. These scenes are limited, but when they arrive they are realistic and that it is what makes them so ruthless.

By the end of “Crimson Peak,” the style of horror shifts from paranormal thriller to a fast-paced slasher (think of the original “Halloween”). The shift is quick but del Toro executes it well. The switch in style may not be enjoyed by all audience members because some may prefer one style to the other but for those who like both, the change is perfect.

“Crimson Peak” is the film to watch this fall. The film creates its own unique story that audiences will not be forget any time soon.