I cannot deny that I am a Guillermo del Toro fan, and that I’ve seen almost every film he’s released. Crimson Peak tops them all. This is homage to the Gothic novels of the 17th and 18th centuries, and to all of us modern-day bluestockings, surrounded by books and a pen that’s a cherished gift. It’s for all of us who loved Mr. Rochester, loved Heathcliff, and dreams of Manderley. There’s a nod to Wilkie Collins, a sideways glance to Henry James. There’s even a reference to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as Alan McMichael notes he shares the same profession as one of his heroes.
Edith is not having any luck shopping her book around – her last publisher tells that her handwriting is too feminine, and she should be writing love stories instead of ghost stories. This infuriates her and she leaves in a huff. That night her father gives her a beautiful gold fountain pen, but Edith says she is going to have to use the new device, the typewriter.
Alan and Edith reconnect after many years, the years during which Alan took his medical training. He is still fond of Edith, but Edith was tired of waiting around. They are cordial to each other, but in Edith’s eyes he is already stuck in the friend-zone. Her father and Alan try to coax her into going to a ball, but guess what? She’d rather stay home and write. My bluestocking heart gave a little squee. What no one counted on was Thomas Sharpe and his determination to get something out of the Cushing (a reference to Peter?) family. Papa had already turned him away from company support for his gizmo that would make the mining of the clay in his shire easier. He’d already been turned down by London, Edinburgh and Milan. But Thomas isn’t giving up; he knows more than one way to skin a cat, and he visits Edith while alone while the others are at the party. Somehow he sweet-talks her into going to the ball, where she and Thomas engage in a beautiful and erotic waltz. Papa and Alan look most unhappy; Papa hires a private detective (Burn Gorman) to check into the Sharpes and what he finds out leads Mr. Cushing to banish Thomas and Lucille from his home, and gives them enough money to get out of Dodge, as in like right now.
As you can foresee, Thomas comes back for Edith and that sweet first taste of forbidden love intoxicates them both. Papa suffers a fall in the bathroom and dies, and Edith’s mother passed years before, so all of the family fortune will go to Edith. This leads to a hasty wedding and a trip to the decrepit Allerdale Hall. Apparently they had no building code back then because there was inadequate heat, holes in the ceilings, and the floor is sinking………
To say any more about the plot would give away the most wonderful twists and turns the film takes. Del Toro’s use of light and dark are perfect for this metaphorical film about love. Yes, there are ghosts, and some great jump scenes. Every actor is on his mark, but Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska are absolutely glowing in their roles. (Somewhere tonight, a modern-day Bluestocking will say, “Last night I dreamed of Allerdale Hall and Mr. Sharpe….”) Jessica Chastain plays Thomas’s utterly bizarre sister, and of course Charlie Hunnam rides in on a metaphorical white horse (he left the Harley behind). The sheer treat to the senses, the homage to gothic novels past, his respect for the viewers – I think Del Toro has made a masterful film, if not a true masterpiece.