Guillermo Del Toro’s gothic/horror romance Crimson Peak is one of the most enjoyable films so far of 2015.

1300X637_CRIMSONThe film opens in with heroine Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), the intelligent and independently minded young woman lifted straight out of a Jane Austin novel. Her gentle innocence and quick wit allow her the perfect character to be lulled into a Shakespearian romance with the devastatingly handsome Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). It’s only once they move in together that the ghosts from her stories come out to play..

Rather than delving into meta-commentary like many of the most playful horror films of the last few years (see Cabin in the Woods and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane), Del Toro subverts the tropes of the gothic/horror and period/romance genres by revelling in their clichés.

The winks and nudges in the film are achieved through subtle directorial touches. While the plot at times feels predictable, Del Toro elicits a particular joy from the audience by holding a shot for a moment too long, or elongating an ominous sound; what results is a transformation of the terrifying to the delightfully absurd.

That being said, there are still genuine scares, and the film is really an exhibition in treading that fine line between horror and comedy. The danger is that some viewers might find it more comedic than creepy, that seems to be where some of the criticisms of the film have been levelled.

The performances work to this same end. The main cast give fittingly melodramatic turns. Jessica Chastain in particular gets it right with a powerful performance that knows just when to turn the dial to eleven and when to show restraint.

Australian Mia Wasikowska delivers perhaps the weakest performance, and one feels like she didn’t quite capture the tone that the film required, which wasn’t helped by a lack of chemistry between her and Hiddleston.

Like his masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth, the set design in Del Toro’s film is meticulous. The luscious red of the clay that seeps ominously through the floorboards and the vibrant yellow of Edith’s dress make for almost over indulgent images against the musty dark interior of the dilapidated manor and its white snow-swept surroundings. With each shot so painstakingly designed, a truly beautiful film ensues, and it ultimately demands a trip to the cinema to be enjoyed in all its glory. Despite our Australian beauty Mia Wasikowska taking the leading role, the true star of this film was certainly the cinematography, set and costume design.

4 stars

View the trailer:

By Daisy Sumersford