Photo By: Noah Nickel via Netflix
With Halloween fast approaching and the smell of pumpkin spice in the air, why not take the time to revisit some of your favourite scary movies?
Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak was released in 2015, and was met with generally positive reception. In many ways, it is not your typical horror film. It plays with genre, allowing influences from Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle, and other authors to mesh seamlessly with the world of film. The ghosts are creepy, and their design is even more monstrous than audiences might expect.
As with all of Del Toro’s films, the horror isn’t just found in the monsters, it is primarily present in the human characters. In Crimson Peak love is the monster, more specifically, possessive love that must destroy the object of affection to fully possess it.
Metanarrative is utilized throughout, as the protagonist Edith (Mia Wasikowska) writes not a ghost story, but a story with ghosts in it, where the ghosts are, “a metaphor for the past.” In Del Toro’s film, the ghosts are allies to the protagonist, warning her to beware of Crimson Peak from the very first scene. By showing us the monster in the first scene, Del Toro eliminates the tension of imagining what it looks like, but instead builds tension around when the audience will see it again.
He uses the character Alan (Charlie Hunnam) to establish what the rules about the ghosts are; the Earth is what remembers people who have died and traps their memories for only certain people to see them. Because the Earth plays a significant role in the fabrication of ghosts, they are the colour of the Earth where they reside. Crimson Peak has high iron and red clay which oozes through the snow like blood and colours the ghosts that dwell there.
The costume design also impeccably evokes horror, especially with Edith and Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Lucille first appears in a blood red dress with a spine-like ribbon detail running up her back. Upon viewing the film for a second time, this detail is clearly meant to evoke the ghost of Lucille’s mother, whose bony apparition shows up later in the film.
There is a scene where Edith and Lucille are watching the butterflies die in Buffalo and Edith is dressed in a light yellow gown that matches the wings of the insects they are admiring. Lucille tells her about the black moths that feed on butterflies at Crimson Peak, while wearing black. The symbolism may seem over the top, but the story keeps the audience guessing until the very end. The obvious symbolism lets us know that something bad is happening without giving away what it is.
Crimson Peak is a terrific example of a film that utilizes drastically different components and influences and can make them work together to tell a coherent and impactful story. It delivers on creepiness without being too scary and the themes are compelling and will give you something to think about after it ends. Whether it is a horror movie about love, or a horrifying love story, Crimson Peak is worth revisiting this Halloween.