Audiences of Crimson Peak are more than likely to see the film for one of two reasons. Either they know that the film features a scantily clad Tom Hiddleston at a least one point, and are firm fans of the English actor’s charm and good looks, or they’re dedicated followers of the director, Guillermo del Toro, and are looking for Crimson Peak to deliver the same artful terror shown by 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth.
Critics are heralding Crimson Peak as del Toro’s first successful English film, filled with sumptuous Victorian gothic horror, a love letter to the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, Wilkie Collins and Charlotte Brontë hidden in every line. It revels in its own over the top ghostly happenings and suitably creepy setting (a dilapidated Victorian mansion on a suitably desolate English moor). There’s mystery, blood, wailing women, romance, and there’s also Tom Hiddleston smiling crookedly as he enacts his dastardly plan. Jessica Chastain shows another side as the evil but fragile sister and cold-hearted host, and Mia Wasikowska fulfils every cliché as the naive young heroine thrust into a house full of horrors. Unpredictable? No, but it is a fun and immensely entertaining piece of tongue in cheek period horror. Not del Toro’s best perhaps, but worthy of a viewing for the immaculate, upscale production alone.
Box offices, however, especially those in America, seem to disagree. Crimson Peak has failed to bring in anything near its $55 million budget, with a US opening of just $12.8 million. For such a heavily marketed Universal film, with a string of weighty names and a star director attached, that’s a pretty poor performance. In the US, the Halloween audience has been captured instead by the child-orientated Goosebumps, which raked in an opening of $23 million in comparison.
So what went wrong? Perhaps it was that del Toro himself was quick to label the film gothic-romance instead of centring on horror, and that put people off. Whilst this is true – the film plays up the creepy love affair with much pomp – perhaps cinema-goers were looking for a more stereotypically fright-inducing film. It also ran the risk of passing audiences by due to its middle-of-the-ground certificate. Families will have opted for the more child friendly Goosebumps, and with Tom Hank’s political drama Bridge Of Spies and crime thriller Sicario also in cinemas, there were many adult films to choose from, In short, Crimson Peak appeals to only a niche audience, and it lost out.
It’s also being slated as being all style, no substance. That’s sort of the point – del Toro’s created a pastiche of gothic-romance, but it’s leaving some people decidedly disappointed. People are bemoaning his supposed loss of talent for the truly disturbed on blogs the Internet over. There was a lot of hype for Crimson Peak, and inevitably it fell short. Or perhaps Americans just don’t understand a purposeful send off and an artful mix of genres when it’s presented to them.
Image: Universal Pictures