Every once in a while the cinema gets it right, but I agree with one reviewer who judged the production work better than the story in Crimson Peak. Better doesn’t do it justice. The surprising part is that it’s an American company, not known for accuracy in period works, but was partly filmed at Pinewood Studios, which may be the reason for its excellence in this area. The set design and costumes were gorgeous, even if the house itself was more of a caricature of the gothic theme and the creepiness value more fun than scary.
I’m a chicken about horror flicks. Don’t watch them, but I was lured to this one because of the time period and wasn’t disappointed. There were more creaking floorboards than necessary but the fx sounds worked for this film. Expensive homes built back then had master craftsmen doing the work. Those squeaky boards probably didn’t start to protest until at least fifty years later after the house had completely settled and woods began to dry out. And what wonderful woods and woodworking. It was everywhere, all over the walls, in dark, whirling Jacobean furniture and elegant Belter style chairs. I was in late Victorian heaven.
Jessica Chastain knows how to carry off wearing the 1880 bustle—I loved wearing dresses with a bustle—and as always, used her expressive eyes to fascinate. Her clothes were meant to be out of date, a decade behind Gay Ninties Paris-influenced styles.
Wasikowski and Hiddleston performed an exquisite waltz scene, so gracefully done it could be filmed showing footwork as well as an overhead view. OK, so I’m a bit nutty when it comes to period pieces, but this film had actual parquetry work, a real ballroom floor. I notice things like that, and noisy bedsprings.
The coolest thing for me happened in Sir Thomas’s workroom where there were three, wax mannequin heads. Spooky looking things. My aunt had one in her museum and it always gave me the shivers, the fixed smile, weird eyes and ashen-white complexion. And Crimson Peak had three of them on a dusty shelf.
Since the story wasn’t freaking me out, and remember, I’m a chicken, which means diehard horror fans might stifle a few yawns, but it allowed me to check out all the marvelous accuracy. There was only one error to be found (but I might find more when I watch the DVD) and that was the walk in the park. Edith Cushing (Wasikowski) props her parasol on her shoulder. Never done. The parasol was held upright, but I let it pass because it was a gloomy day and much was made of the weather in that scene.
I enjoyed the film for its artistry, but if you’re looking for scary, it wasn’t so much. There’s some slasher type action and yucky ghosts, but I didn’t flinch, if that’s any kind of gauge. I’ll be seeing again because of its artwork and attention to period detail.
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
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