Creative cinematography makes for novel horror

Photo courtesy of Legendary Pictures

“Crimson Peak” is unlike most other movies of its horror genre. Visionary director Guillermo del Toro took horror to a place not seen since Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” in 1980. He brought art to a genre that is riddled with clichés and lackluster acting.

The film is set in 1901, giving the whole movie a setting that few, previous horror movies have used. The movie switches frequently between Buffalo, New York and Cumbria, England. It is, however, in England where most of the movie’s horrors and time takes place. With the movie taking place in a decrepit mansion, Guillermo del Toro’s most recent work provides a gothic tone which is an extremely welcome addition to the movie.

Mia Wasikowska (“Alice in Wonderland”) plays Edith Cushing, a rich, unwed woman from Buffalo, New York and Tom Hiddleston, who portrays Loki in the ever-popular Marvel Cinematic Universe, plays Thomas Sharpe, her love interest from Cumbria, England. Mia Wasikowska, while being an Australian actress, was capable of a very believable American accent just as Tom Hiddleston played the part of an early 1900s Englishman perfectly.

While Thomas Sharpe and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thiry”) are visiting England to meet with Edith’s father, Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver, “Desperado”), Thomas falls in love with Edith, yet is forbidden by Carter to marry her. Eventually, Thomas is forced to leave America, but before he departs, Carter is mysteriously murdered. Thomas quickly comes to Edith’s side and decides to marry her and bring her back to England. It
is here where del Toro’s artistry truly shines.

The director created a beautiful setting in Cumbria, England. The Sharpe mansion was perfectly outfitted with furnishings and technology to match the movie’s 1901 era. To add to the beauty, he made it so the mansion was crumbling, yet still doing so with beauty. Guillermo del Torro added a green tint to the scenes in the mansion, providing for a ghastly environment that only enforced the creepiness of the ghosts that lurked in the mansion.

He even made sure the transitions between scenes matched the time period. This was done by making scenes close and open with a simplistic circular fade or a wipe.

The director also made the grounds of the mansion just as beautiful as the building itself. The land was used to mine red clay, and during the winter, the deep red would seep through the snow. The movie utilized this aspect perfectly during the winter scenes. The red clay provided a stark contrast to the white snow beside it, reminding the viewer that blood had been shed on this land years ago.

The movie can be seen as split into thirds. The first third is when Edith is still in America, the second when Edith arrives in England, and the third when Edith figures out what has happened at the Sharpe mansion in the past. The first section of “Crimson Peaks,” as with many horror movies, is the slowest.

It has the least amount of scares and is there to set up for the true horrors that occur in England. The second section is the one which truly shines. Pop-out scares with beautifully crafted ghosts keep the viewer’s heart rate up throughout.

While the third section does slow down a bit, this does not mean the end is not scary. This is where the most action occurs, and the viewers are glued to the screen, ensuring they do not miss anything.

This is one of the best horror movies in a long time. That is not to say, however, that “Crimson Peaks” is the scariest though. Those looking for scares should probably look somewhere else. But those looking for a story reinforced by a great backdrop and a unique concept, look no further than “Crimson Peak”.