It’s 1901. While working from her father’s office, using a typewriter to disguise the “pretty loops” of her feminine handwriting, a young American writer (Mia Wasikowska), who prefers Shelley to Austen, meets her very own Byron, a “baronet” from England named Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Sharpe’s there seeking her father’s aid to finance a machine that will excavate the scarlet mush underneath his estate, in England, which he claims can be shaped into strong brick. Along for the transatlantic journey is Sharpe’s sister (Jessica Chastain), a saturnine pianist with a conspicuous crimson ring. After some handwringing and waltzing, Sharpe and sister return to their decrepit mansion with the money and the young writer, now betrothed to Sharpe, in tow. For better or worse, the conventional Gothic romance unfolds, with not enough sex and just enough violence and one instance of the f-word. For a far more demented version of this movie watch Alleluia, a Belgian film released earlier this year, which plays out similarly after the first act. Yet, in Crimson Peak, director Guillermo del Toro’s passion for Gothic romance bleeds through: Crimson Peak is an expertly rendered, detail-oriented film. In an era in which studios dish out money for prestige period films and Marvel movies, it’s refreshing to see lavish production design and magnificent costumes in a genre film for adults.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White