Oscar-nominated writer-director Guillermo del Toro has made a career out of freaking audiences out. From the creepy, 450 year-old mechanical scarab with a thirst for blood in Cronos to the genetically modified humanoid insects in Mimic, the nightmarish creature with eyes on his palms in Pan’s Labyrinth and those spooky little Spanish school boys in The Devil’s Backbone, del Toro is clearly very comfortable sharing his elaborately-spun nightmares with audiences. And the florid, gloriously gory Crimson Peak is no different.
In fact, I was so disturbed by some of what I saw onscreen that I had to stop watching Peak at night and finish it the next morning in the light of day. Of course, that’s not always possible on an airplane, but at least there you have the flight crew and your fellow passengers to hold and comfort you if you get really scared.
That said, I wouldn’t qualify Peak as particularly scary, but rather sort of profoundly unnerving. And like many of the films in del Toro’s singularly strange oeuvre, Peak gets under your skin and really messes with your head in the best way possible.
Set in the late 1800’s, Peak stars Alice in Wonderland’s Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston (Thor, The Avengers), Charlie Hunnam (TV’s Sons of Anarchy) and Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain (The Martian, Zero Dark Thirty) as one of the most twisted sisters in recent movie history and was co-written by del Toro’s Mimic collaborator Matthew Robins. And though the story is appropriately juicy, and always fun to watch, the real star in Peak is the creaky haunted house where most of the action takes place. A crumbling Victorian mansion plopped down atop a red clay mine in a remote corner of the English countryside, the fictional Allerdale Hall has a giant hole in the ceiling and is literally oozing blood red clay as it sinks, ever so slowly, into the earth.
The brainchild of del Toro and Oscar-nominated production designer Thomas E. Sanders (Dracula, Saving Private Ryan) Allerdale is destined to join the ranks of The Shining’s Overlook Hotel and the Dutch Colonial family home from The Amityville Horror as one of the scariest haunted houses ever set to film. Seriously, even the kitchen is creepy in this joint. The fact that every dark, elaborate hallway is filled with moaning, decaying ghosts in various stages of undress only makes matters worse. And don’t even get me started on that bathtub scene. Yikes!
Del Toro has called Peak his homage to the classic Hammer Horror films he grew up watching as a kid and it’s all that and more. Spooky, bodice-rippingly sexy, and darkly funny, Peak is the work of a master cinematic stylist at the height of his powers. And though it isn’t always perfect, Peak is so breathtaking beautiful that you won’t want to miss a single, blood-soaked minute of it.
Now playing on select Emirates, British Airways and American Airlines flight worldwide, Crimson Peak is also available via steaming at Amazon Video, Google Play and iTunes.