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Crimson Peak


Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman

Director: Guillermo del Toro

A beautifully dressed and handsomely mounted but batty horror film, in which characters sustain enough injury to halt an elephant, but still manage to charge around wielding knives and cleavers. Is it a spoookfest or a Gothic romance? Director del Toro criss-crosses the genres at his peril.

Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) should have known better, she really should. A budding author in early 20th century America, with a formidable construction tycoon (Beaver) for a father, she still manages to fall headlong for the slightly shivery charm of Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) fresh, if that's the word, from England, in the company of his sister Lucille (played by Chastain with black hair and a character that might as well have 'evil' hung round her neck from the first and is clearly someone to steer well clear of).

Dad employs a detective (Gorman) who unearths some suspicious (and horrific) facts about the siblings' background; Cushing Sr pays them handsomely to leave the country on the next boat. But then he's battered to death and Edith is soon Lady Sharpe, and bustled off to bleakest Cumberland where, in Crimson Peak, lies the rotting, moth-infested Sharpe family mansion, miles from anywhere.

Things do not bode well for Edith, who has already had a grisly visitation from her mother's ghost at home; to start with, there's a socking great hole in the roof through which snow pours, and a cellar where, among other places, she is not allowed to go.

Startled to be welcomed by a roaring noise, Thomas reassures her. 'It's the East wind,' he says. It rushes through the house; it's ghastly I know.' Not half as ghastly as what awaits poor Edith. Must be all that berry tea Lucille keeps giving her... Never mind, she survives a towering fall from the topmost gallery, bouncing off a balustrade and crashing to the concrete floor, which in life would certainly have killed a horse let along a sickly woman.

The witchly ghost, gooey, gory and skeletal, naturally, is shown far too early, and what the aristos get up up to takes more swallowing than poor Edith's tea. Still, horror films as daft as this have no right to be made with such style. And remember, the pellet with the poison's in the platter with the porridge...

David Quinlan

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by FotoKem.
118 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 15 Oct 2015