While my inspirations for Gothic romance are the classics: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte; Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, and more, I Really enjoyed the Gothic romance movie, Crimson Peak by Guillermo del Toro. Of course the fact it had three of my favorite actors didn’t hurt!
Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasokowska…and Gothic romance. What’s not to like????
The plot: Edith Cushing, played by Mia Wasikowska, is our heroine, the proverbial, Gothic damsel in distress. She is perfect: small, delicate, arouses protectiveness in anyone. She is repeatedly visited by her mother’s ghost who warns her against the mysterious “Crimson Peak,” which she later realizes is another name for Allerdale Hall in England, the Gothic mansion she moves to with her new husband, Thomas Sharpe, played by Tom Hiddleston, and his sister, Lucille, played by the unsurpassable Jessica Chastain. Nothing is right at this mansion. First, the red clay it sits on, all the more shocking because it oozes like bright red blood out of snow, is slowly devouring it; hence the name Crimson Peak. Second, the gorgeous man who swept Edith off her feet all of a sudden acts cold and distant towards her. Third, his beautiful sister seems to hate her. We find out later that Thomas and Lucille have been carrying on an incestuous relationship, and that he married three other rich women before Edith to gain access to their money, after which the brother and sister poisoned them. In the spirit (!) of crimson, Edith is visited by ghastly red ghosts, starts coughing up blood, and realizes that she also is being poisoned. What wasn’t part of the plan, however, was Thomas falling in love with Edith. Jessica Chastain, fabulous in every role she has ever done, transforms beautifully into a jealous lunatic sister who murders her brother rather than lose him, and is herself killed eventually by Edith. Of course there’s more, go see it!
What I was impressed by was the whole crimson theme. The snow was red, the ghosts were red, and not just a regular red, but a powerful, bloody red that attacks the senses and makes your skin crawl. It reminds us of what we are inside, a throbbing, pulsing, living red, a thought that completely goes against our humanity because, except in the form of a rare steak on our plate, which has nothing to do with what’s inside us (!), we cannot relate to it and would rather not think about it. Unless, of course, we are in the medical profession, or sadistic, people skinning murderers, or perhaps butchers. And It was different in that ghosts are not usually presented as red; bleeding maybe, translucent maybe, hazy blues or grays, purples, blacks maybe but not all over red like that. So in that respect I thought it was more like a monster movie. But whatever it was, it was very entertaining, and, as always, a joy to watch these three great actors.
Here is an interview of the cast.
“Ghosts I love because they represent so many things and I like to use them in a different way than they are used in horror movies where they are just scary and creepy. I want to also use them as characters that could be good…ghosts represent the past.”
– Guillermo del Toro
Love his 2006 Spanish dark fantasy film, Pan’s Labyrinth as well.