This is not the story about the ghosts. Ghosts are just a metaphore for the past.
Well, I’ve never seen a horror movie in my life so I was really exhited when I was in the theatre waiting to see this one by one of my favourite directors Guilermo Del Toro (I say “one of my favourite” though I only saw one other film directed by him “Pan’s Labyrinth” but that movie experience was mind blowing so I keep saying “my favourite”). And the film, as it turned out to be, wasn’t really a horror. The director himself reffers to it as to”a gothic romance” and I think it could be very well called a triller as well. I wasn’t dissapointed even a bit when I realise it wasn’t a horror movie because it is so much more!
Personally, I really love an elaborate story and the characters that have personality but very well can change within the story. This is actually one of the reasons why I don’t like stories like Cinderella where the characters are just good or just bad and there is no more depth in them. Here everythoing was different. Crimson Peak is the story about a young writer who falls in love and goes to live with her new husband (after a very misterious murder of her farther, who really didn’t like that guy, I must say) in England in some far away from actual living human beings old creepy house which is practically falls apart and sinks into a crimson liquid clay on which it was built. And this is where the action takes place.
Edith, the main character, has a very strong spirit to start with. She is not just a damsell in distress, she is a girl who writes her own stories and has strong opinins about the world. She doesn’t want a love story, she wants a ghost story and this is what she gets. What a coincedence.
The film keeps the audience on edge all the time and even when there are no ghosts or no blood or mistery shown on screen it still keeps your attention on the action and, well, romance and relationship. In the beginning, when the action is set in America, it seems like it will be a very beautifull period movie with all that machinery and technological progress going on and those a but exadurated but still amazing Victorian costumes (espesially dresses and hats, of course). The whole aura of those americain happe days for the character have this tint of gold and warm brown over it. It goes through the whole imagery including sets, light and costumes. This golden colour is what Edith keeps with herself till almost the end of the movie. The best contrast between this happy and warm Americain girl and the cold and creepy English house will be when she will be wearing a bright yellow dress. This will be a moment where even her husband says that se is just different. Different from what? From other victums? From this cold colour palette of the house? Different from his other lover – his sister? Anyway, she is different. She can see ghosts. This is how she starts to suspect that something is wrong with this place and something is wrong with the people she’s living with. But… this is not the ghost story. Ghosts are just a metaphore for the past. And they are. They a the past of this house, they are the past of Thomas Sharp and his sister Lucille, they are their victums whom they, at least Thomas could never let go.
As in all Guilermo Del Toro’s stories the real monsters are not the ghosts, the real monsters are the people and the real horror is what happens in their souls. The real monsters in this story are Thomas and Lucille. Lucille is the one behind all the evil plans and murders and she doesn’t feel any guilt about what she’s done. She doesn’t have any pity. She is not emotionally attached to anyone except for her brother, who is, quite obviously, her lover. Thomas is a very weak character, he seems to be doing all that his sister asks of him, but he seems to be doing it in a quite romantic way. I wonder if he thinks of himself as a romantic hero, sacrifasing humanity for the greater cause – love. The problems for those two start when Thomas falls in love with his wife and tries to protect her. This is when his sister’s jelousy comes out at a full rage. Edith, curious from the beginning, and not blinded by love, already suspects something, but she doesn’t undersand the whole tragedy of those two people. At the end when there is no need in pretending, when Edith knows that she has been poisoned and that her husband and his sister are murderes her depiration give her strength and will to live. This is when she decides to live and fight for her life.
To be honest, if I was on her place, I would run away the moment I stepped in the house. Everything about it is wrong. And beautiful, I must say. The best thing for the visuals, I think, is that they have actually built that set with this dark and fairytale-ish staircase and balconies. I absolutely love how this creepy set works out and that it doesn’t just look like it was abandoned for decades. Abandoned house falling apart is exactly the place where you would imagine ghosts to be, but this house is something different. I can’t really identify what it is about it but I gives me the same feeling as the sets in Pan’s Labyrinth. May be it is that attention to the details. Gothic architecture is what this place is all about and all those spikes coming from the ceiling towards the characters… it is just what adds something extra to the whole movie experience. This is why I keep saying this house is not just creepy, it it beautifully creepy. As the director says himself, the house becomes another caracter – it brieves, it moves it seems like it is even bleeding with all that red clay soaking through the walls and the floors. Red clay is also a metaphore for the blood that was shed in this house. And the epic fignting scene outside the house when this black gothic mension is covered by snow and the snow turn crimson as if it was blood. The colour sceme there is classy and beautiful. Reminds me a bit of Kill Bill’s fight in a snowy japaneese garden.
The other interesting colour sceme decision was made about the ghosts. The very first one that heroine sees is the ghost of her dead mother. She is all black. Next ones are the ones at the Crimson Peak House – the victims. They are all red. And when you actually get used to them beeing all that creepy and half-rotten and, of course, crimson, another colour is introduced – white. For newly dead Thomas. And I must say this image of him is so touching, even knowing that he wasn’t Prince Charming in real life.
There is also that one thing that Guilermo Del Toro definitelly loves to use in his films: insects. In Pan’s Labyrinth there were the fairies that looked like insects in the beginning, here there are butterflies, duying in America, eaten by the ants (with an extreme close up on the eathing process, wasn’t actually a horror I felt but chills, as it just looked so naturalistic) and the same (I think) type of butterflies being something like a part of the house. The butterfly is another metaphore used in the film. Something beautiful and free dying in America symbolises the future for Edith with no more freedom or health. The ones on the wall of a room – a dream that she had of living with her husband, illusion of protection and love, because butterflies are so fragile. And there are the ones on the walls used as a pattern on the wallpaper saying: fear, quite literally. I haven’t noticed that detail when I was wathcing the actual movie, to be honest, but this is definitelly that sort of detail I want to get into when working myself. And enother interesting butterfly-ish thing that I could see there was that interesting corridor’s architectural shape with spikes that remind me of both cages and cocoons. I don’t think that the butterfly is something that’s gonna come out of this cocoon, it is something different, something stronger. And this is symbol of new life for the main character.
And, of course I should mention the scene in the bathroom that pretty much reminds me again of Pan’t Labyrith with very specificly shaped periodic bath and the round window on top of it. I really liked that it was the same type of shot – straight, human hight, just as it was in Pan’s Labyrinth. But here the director added this view back from where the bath is, character’s point of view when the first ghost of the house appears. And I really liked the fact that there was a doorway and a corridor that led to this bathroom and when there is that overview of the whole room shot from outside that corridor there was a strong feeling of confignment that I think was exactly what the director was going for.