Film / Crimson Peak

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Take a little walk to the edge of town and go across the tracks...

Crimson Peak is the next approach of Guillermo del Toro to ghost stories, released in October 2015. It’s - in his own words - a classic gothic horror romance with a modern take. The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain and Charlie Hunnam.

The year is 1901 and Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is a young writer with a troubled past, who marries Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and moves to his mansion home, Allerdale Hall, in Cumbria where he resides with his sister Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain). But (par for the course with a del Toro film) Edith discovers that Sir Thomas is not what he appears to be...

The first official trailer can be watched here. The second one is here, and another variation of it here.

This film contains examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: By the end, Thomas and Lucille are given this trope. They were both greedy Serial Killers but their deaths are treated sympathetically, with Thomas being stabbed multiple times by Lucille, turning into a spirit and being given a non-verbal goodbye to Edith while Lucille turning into an emotional wreck and becoming one of the many ghosts that haunt Allerdale Hall.
  • All There in the Manual: The artbook in particular includes truncated versions of character backstories that Guillermo del Torro wrote out and gave to the actors. The originals were apparently much much longer.
  • Anti-Villain: Sir Thomas
  • Apocalyptic Log: Edith finds one with the recordings of the three previous wives who were killed by Lucille. They spill the beans on everything about the Sharpes, from their methods of killing them (poison in the tea) to their motivations (stealing money from the wives so that they can rebuild their fortune and Thomas can make his inventions). Thomas even goes into detail of how he disposed of one of the women with an Ironic Nursery Tune.
  • Arc Symbol: Pretty Butterflies and the Macabre Moth Motif are a re-occurring symbol throughout. Del Toro himself referenced this while guiding people through the Comic Con display.
  • Arc Words: BEWARE OF CRIMSON PEAK
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The film's leads get what they want by the end, though not in the way they anticipated.
    • Edith gets new material for her book, though almost at the cost of losing her life.
    • Thomas finally gets to leave Allerdale Hall, but only as a spirit.
    • Lucille never wants to leave her home and at the end, she gets exactly that, as one of many ghosts that haunt the house.
  • Big Bad: At first, Lucille works together with her brother Thomas to eventually kill Edith, but after he pulls a Heel–Face Turn, she's the sole major villain.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Edith and Thomas's first kiss.
  • Big Fancy House: Allerdale Hall is enormous and still opulent, if more than a tad decrepit.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Sharpe siblings, their abusive father who beat them and squandered the family fortune, their equally abusive mother who confined them to the attic, their inbred baby...
  • Bittersweet Ending: Edith and Alan survive their experiences at Allerdale Hall and manage to get away, the village now has the Clay Extractor for the brickworks to hopefully bring them prosperity, and Thomas has apparently redeemed himself and can move on to whatever comes after death. But - if we're going with the standard del Toro view on the afterlife in his films - Lucille and her victims are probably trapped as ghosts forever, just as miserable and despairing in death as they were in life.
  • The Bluebeard: Thomas has been married three times already and none of his wives lasted that long, although Lucille's the one who actually poisoned them. Unlike most Bluebeard stories, Thomas actually falls for his latest wife.
  • Blue And Orange Contrast: On the official movie poster.
  • Bond One-Liner: Edith to Lucille in the climax.
    "I heard you the first time."
  • Break the Cutie: Edith does not have the best luck. First her mother dies, then she has her book be rejected with each person telling her she should write about love instead of ghost stories, then her father dies quite brutally, and then it's revealed her new husband (mainly his sister) have been using her for her money and are actually in an incestuous relationship, all while being able to see ghosts at the same time. She even has her new dog killed while at it! Thankfully, It Gets Better by the end of it, even if it is a bit bittersweet.
  • Brother-Sister Incest
  • Chekhov's Gun: Many. Edith's pen, the meat cleaver, the ring, the pile of snow in the atrium, the mine shaft...
    • Averted with Thomas's earth-mover machine. Despite plenty of build-up, including Thomas injuring himself on a gear, it's activated during Lucille's hunt for Edith but neither of the two are caught or wounded by it.
  • Clockwork Creature/Creepy Doll: The fortune teller toy Thomas and Edith play with.
  • Costume Porn: All the dresses, including Lucille's worn and outdated one and Edith's nightgown, and the men in turn of the century white tie for a ball.
  • Creepy Children Singing: In the very beginning of the film, when the producing companies' logos are being shown, the voice of a girl singing can be heard. Halfway through the movie, it is revealed that the song is a lullaby Lucille used to sing to Thomas when they were little. The creepiness does not end there, though. It really hits the fan in the third act when Lucille sings the song to Thomas when they're about to have sex. Yup.
  • Dance of Romance: Thomas indicates that he's switched his attentions from Eunice to Edith by choosing her as the "perfect" partner for a demonstration of the waltz.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: All of the main characters except for Dr. McMichael. See Dysfunction Junction.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The various ghosts that appear in the movie don't actually intend to harm Edith; they're merely warning her of a living threat.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Carter, Edith's father, dislikes Thomas from their first meeting; especially in regards to him flirting with his daughter. After hiring a private investigator to look into Thomas' past, he pays the Sharpe siblings off to never come back and have Thomas break Edith's heart. Thomas later explains in a letter to Edith that Carter did so because he didn't approve of the siblings being Impoverished Patricians. In reality, Carter did it because he found out that they were implicated of murdering their mother and such.
  • Determinator:
    • Edith, poisoned, sporting an injured leg and an assortment of other injuries, still has enough energy to stab Lucille by surprise, support Alan, outrun Lucille for a bit more and later kill her all during a snowstorm.
    • Alan walks four hours under heavy snow and still has enough energy to tend to Edith, get stabbed twice and still leave the house walking.
    • Lucille:
    "I won't stop until I kill you or you kill me."
  • Dysfunction Junction:
    • Thomas and Lucille were confined to their nursery as children, hinting at a more tragic (and perhaps terrifying) back story.
    • Edith lost her mother as a child and was haunted by her ghost.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: The Sharpe siblings.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Edith's pet Papillon dog starts barking as soon as the creepy stuff commences.
  • Evil Is Hammy: In the beginning of the movie, Lucille is pretty restrained in her nature. But once certain secrets and plot twists start hitting the fan in the third act, she becomes a hysterical, screaming mad woman.
  • Exposed to the Elements: Subverted. Edith tries to leave the manor in the middle of a blizzard in only her nightgown. She passes out before she can, and when Alan tries to get them out, he has to stop to find her a coat. When they finally leave, they're bundled up.
  • Facial Horror: Just look at the poster!
    • And that's not even getting into Edith's poor father, whose face gets smashed into a sink repeatedly by Lucille until the sink BREAKS, and his face has caved in.
    • Lucille stabs Thomas with a knife straight through one of his cheeks. Thomas can be seen fidgeting to take the knife out, and when he succeeds, we are left with a brief shot of his gaping wound. The emphasis on his cheek wound is emphasized all the more when he comes back as a ghost.
  • Foreshadowing: Every conversation about Edith's Book directly references the story itself. "It's not a ghost story, it's a story with a ghost, the ghost is a metaphor for the past" being the most telling.
    • Edith's remark that "I would prefer to be Mary Shelley. She died a widow." By the end of the film, she certainly will.
  • Freudian Excuse: After their violent childhood, loss of the entire family fortune, murder of their parents, being sent to a 19th century asylum in Lucille's case (which, back then, included horrifying treatment) and then being forced to live in a decaying and rotting old house, it's no wonder Lucille and Thomas turned out the way they did.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Sir Thomas.
  • Genius Loci: In one of the trailers, Thomas says the following: "A house as old as this one becomes, in time, a living thing. It starts holding onto things. Some of them good, some are bad. Some should never be spoken about again."
    • Subverted, the house is normal, the sounds and its "blood" have mundane explanations. Although it is haunted by the ghosts of the people the siblings killed.
  • Genre Throwback: To Hammer Horror. Also ticks a lot of boxes for the classic literary Gothic Horror that's somewhat out of fashion today.
  • Ghostly Goals: The spirits' motivations are for Edith to uncover their murders and to leave the house as quickly as possible before she becomes another victim.
  • Ghost Story: It's implied that they are the ghosts of people who have suffered violent deaths at Crimson Peak.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Lucille has two subtle facial scars; both are close to classical antihero scars, two clean lines above her eyebrow and near her lip. These scars were likely incurred through brutal childhood abuse.
  • Gorn: Carter Cushing's death is this, with his head getting smashed against a sink with heavy amounts of blood coming out of his skull.
    • Thomas struggling to pull the knife out of his face.
  • Gothic Horror: Grand but rather creepy ancestral house in a beautiful but rather creepy landscape? Check. Victorian-ish time period? Check. Romance with unsettling undertones? Check. Ghosts? Check. This is a love letter to classic Gothic literature.
  • Haunted Heroine: Edith. Apparently she has been able to see ghosts since childhood and she tries to communicate with one and succeeds.
  • Haunted House: Crimson Peak, though its official name is Allerdale Hall.
  • How We Got Here: The film starts with Edith outside in the snow, bloodstained. The rest of the film, naturally, shows us how she comes to be there.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Lucille tells Edith that she won't stop until one of them kills the other.
  • If I Can't Have You: Lucille to Thomas, after she learns he's truly fallen in love with Edith.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: During the credits, the film's title is shown on a book written by Edith, possibly implying this trope.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: Lucille orders Thomas to kill Alan because she's usuallly the one who takes care of the murders.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Though they hob nob with the upper class, the Sharpe siblings in reality have fallen on hard times.
  • Instant Sedation: Inverted. Despite being "heavily sedated" and on a broken leg, Edith is able to move quickly and think unimpeded during the final act.
    • Fridge Brilliance: Dr. McMichael knew that the Sharpes were trying to kill Edith. He may not have sedated her much at all, and simply pretended he did so that they would not suspect and that she would be lucid enough to leave with him.
  • Irony : Lucille never wants to leave Allerdale Hall. At the end of the film she's become one of its many ghosts, presumably trapped there forever.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Lucille shows Edith a sexually explicit illustration on the side of a book (implied to be the Kama Sutra) —-after which Edith indicates she's still a virgin. And Lucille knows this already.
  • Kick the Dog: Averted then played straight. Thomas cannot bring himself to kill Enola's papillion dog, leaving it outside in the hopes that it will die of exposure. Later, Lucille breaks the dog's neck.
  • Knife Nut: Lucille.
  • Last Girl Wins: Edith is actually Thomas's fourth wife; she's the only one he falls for and actually has sex with, and she's the only one to survive her experiences at the hands of the siblings.
  • Love Redeems: Thomas can't bring himself to kill Edith, whom he's actually fallen in love with, and he dies trying to defend her and Alan from Lucille.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Alan McMichael is in love with Edith, who is married to Sir Thomas.
    • Thomas and Lucille have had deep feelings for one another since they were children; however, Thomas falls genuinely in love with Edith. Lucille doesn't like this at all.
  • Madness Makeover: After her villainous breakdown, the tightly dressed Lucille is running around in a loose nightgown with her hair down and swinging a giant meat cleaver.
  • Mad Scientist: Thomas has been an inventor since childhood, and as for the mad, well, his childhood wasn't that normal. An unusual example, however, in that it's just the methods he uses to get the funding to continue them that are insane, the experiments themselves, and what he's trying to achieve with them, are perfectly reasonable and sane.
  • Made of Iron: At the end Edith, by all rights, shouldn't even be able to move, yet she kills the Big Bad and walks away on her own two feet.
    • Similarly, Alan manages to survive for a significant period of time, despite his wounds. The second was an intentionally non-fatal stabbing, but the first was deeper and never seems to be attended do.
  • Macabre Moth Motif: Throughout the film, there is a consistent moths vs. butterflies motif. Lucille starts off by drawing Edith's attention to some butterflies dying because of the cold, and how only hard, but ugly moths live in the Sharpe's home. And what do the moths feed on? Pretty things.
    • This is exceptionally visible in the attic nursery for Thomas and Lucille, where the place is infested with moths. By the climax, we see Lucille has a butterfly collection, and even a collection of hair from all of Thomas' dead brides. Driving this symbolism home is that the dying butterflies were gold colored, just like most of Edith's favorite dresses. While the moths were black and blue. Two of Lucille and Thomas' main colors throughout the film.
  • Marry for Love: Edith decides to marry Sir Thomas, in spite of finding out that he doesn't have a lick of fortune to back his name. Part of why Thomas married Edith, despite his plan. He switches his seduction from the spoiled Eunice to Edith out of genuine attraction.
  • Meaningful Name: While Sharpes multiple implications should be obvious, Cushing references actor Peter Cushing, star of many Hammer Horror films.
  • Meet Cute: Sir Thomas shows up at Carter's office asking what he thinks is the secretary if he's late. Then he notices her writing and compliments it. Then he finds out she's Carter's daughter. Cue Oh Crap! face.
  • Moment Killer: Lucille walks in one Thomas and Edith when they start to get frisky for the first time.
  • Moustache de Plume: Edith believes that her stories are being overlooked because her handwriting looks too obviously feminine, so tries a typewriter to conceal her gender.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Though the film was marketed as a straight forward haunted house horror film, the final product turned out to be much different that what was represented. Del Toro himself has been quite vocal about what genre the film is (Gothic Romance in this case) and the film even spawned a few articles on how deceitful trailers can be to the annoyance of the audience.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Alan is a stand up guy and, a physician and, by far, the most normal of the main characters, but his hobby is photographing ghosts.
  • Ominous Fog: At the climax.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Justified: Thomas points out that since Alan's a doctor, he'll be able to tell him a place on his body to stab that will look convincing but do no real damage. Later, Lucille stabs Thomas in that same spot - only then to stab him again in the face.
  • Our Spirits Are Different: While Edith may be spooked by the various ghosts throughout the film, none of them bear any ill intent towards her.
  • The Peeping Tom: Lady Lucille peeps on her brother Thomas while he is alone with Edith. She's making sure they're NOT having sex.
    WAIT! Does that mean... she's taking... A Crimson Peek?
  • The Pen Is Mightier: When Lucille's forcing Edith to sign over her property to the Sharpes just before she kills her, Edith suddenly stabs her with her pen. For bonus points, it's the same fountain pen her father gave to her at the beginning of the film.
  • Pet the Dog: Lucille apparently let Enola Sciotti, Thomas's third wife, live longer than planned because she said she could save Thomas and Lucille's love child.
  • The Place: Crimson Peak is a nickname for Allerdale Hall. It is called such because in the winter, the clay around the area dyes the snow red.
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Once Edith catches onto the tea Lucille serves her being poisoned, she refuses to drink it. So Lucille poisons both the tea and the porridge.
  • Police Are Useless: Edith's father, a rich and prominent citizen of New York, is killed by having half his face smashed in with enough force to destroy a sink. No one finds this odd and his death is ruled an "accident" by slipping. The doctor Alan is the only one who thinks some thing is fishy and he only figures it out months later.
  • Precision F-Strike: Lucille delivers one in the middle of The Reveal, telling Edith that she's the only one of Thomas's wives that he has actually "fucked".
  • Questionable Consent: Lucille's affair with Thomas began before Thomas was twelve years old, and he is shown with his eyes closed when the two are in bed together, something that had previously been described as a defence mechanism during uncomfortable situations in order to make them pass more quickly.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Thomas genuinely falls in love with Edith and defends her and Alan from his sister. Lucille, furious that her brother has 'betrayed' her, kills him in a fit of rage. Oddly enough, the redemption continues after death as well, since Thomas's ghost distracts Lucille enough for Edith to get some killing blows in.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Alan, when Edith chooses to marry the mysterious Sir Thomas.
  • Rule of Three: Once in Allerdale Hall, Edith keeps waking up in the middle of the night to find Thomas not in bed. The third time leads to the final reveal.
    • Thomas had married three women after Lucille and before Edith, so Edith is haunted by their three ghosts.
  • Scenery Gorn: Allerdale Hall is gorgeous, despite how decrepit the building is.
  • Self-Made Man: Carter Cushing and his colleagues are this. In particular, his hands are rough thanks to years of hard work. As such, he disapproves of Sir Thomas who has soft hands, clearly someone who relies more on the privilege of his family name than doing actual labor.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Lucille killed her mother when the latter found out that the siblings were engaging in incest with one another. And, according to The Art of Crimson Peak, she poisoned their father when he nearly caused Thomas's death.
  • Sex–Face Turn: Sir Thomas.
  • Sexless Marriage: Thomas and Edith have one because Thomas respecting her decision to mourn her father. They later consumate the union at a local inn after being snowed in.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The song "Red Right Hand" was also used in Del Toro's Hellboy.
    • Edith and Thomas resemble Katrina and Ichabod from Sleepy Hollow (petite pale girl with flowing blonde hair with a sensitivity to the supernatural and tall pale brunette guy with a troubled childhood), another homage to Hammer Horror films.
    • The film opens with a child's voice singing a creepy lullaby, all alone and echoing strangely, just like the opening of The Innocents, which shares more than a few items in common with Crimson Peak.
    • Edith opens a closet door to check for the dog, and a ghost yanks the door closed from the inside. A discarded wheelchair serves as foreshadowing, but may also be a reference to Silent Hill, of which Del Toro is a fan. Even the film's DP Dan Lausten worked on the cinematic adaptation of the series.
    • The final shot of A ghostly Lucille, all in black, slowly turning into frame is close to the final shot of The Woman in Black.
    • Thomas' ghost shares the same appearance as Santi's : skin that looks like cracked porcelain, yellow eyes, blood pouring out like smoke from the wound that killed them...
    • The finale involves a fight in the snow, with thick fog. This is an obvious reference to ending of The Shining.
    • Edith's surname is inspired by Peter Cushing of Hammer Horror fame, and during the climax she stabs Lucille in the chest with her pen, almost staking her in the heart. What was one of the roles Cushing was most famous for playing, again?
  • Shovel Strike: Edith finishes Lucille off by bashing her head in with a shovel while she is momentarily distracted by her brother's ghost.
  • Sickening Crunch: When Edith breaks her leg falling, it's masked by the wood breaking on impact. When she climbs out of the mine shaft in the climax there's an audible snap as she rebreaks her leg.
  • Significant Anagram: Shortly after we first encounter the name "Enola", Lucille starts babbling about how she can't be "alone". This symbolizes how Lucille is Tom's lover, not any of his wives, and she refuses to swap roles.
  • Softer And Slower Cover: A very creepy one of "Red Right Hand", in the trailer. May subvert The Cover Changes the Meaning, as the original song was pretty creepy anyway, this is just a different kind of creepy.
  • Snowed-In: The climax occurs during a heavy snowstorm.
  • Snow Means Death: The eponymous house lies on a hilltop surrounded by a mostly barren snowy landscape. Thomas's ghost appears in the snow and Lucille dies in it.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Del Toro's Spanish works, like The Devil's Backbone.
  • Spanner in the Works: Obviously the Sharpes couldn't account for the fact that Edith can see ghosts, meaning she finds out what they're planning thanks to evidence she's directed towards by the spirits. However, even more crucially, Thomas wasn't supposed to fall in love with Edith - "But it happened."
  • The Summation: Not quite a detective story, but Alan gets one in the end as he explains to Edith that the Sharpes' were involved in the murder of their mother.
  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: Sir Thomas Sharpe, unsurprising since he is played by Tom Hiddleston.
  • Tears of Blood: Thomas, after being stabbed in the face near the eye.
  • Title Drop:
    • The ghost of Edith's mother says the film's title twice, to warn her not to go there.
    • Another one comes courtesy of Thomas, in a rare Deadpan Snarker moment as he truly starts to fall for Edith.
  • Tragic Monster: The Ghosts, who only wish to warn Edith of the Sharpe's true intentions.
  • Travelling at the Speed of Plot: Once Alan begins to suspect something's fishy, he sets off for England from Boston - and somehow manages to get there in about a day, judging by the amount of time that's passed at Allerdale Hall.
    • Another explanation is that Alan's scenes are technically flashbacks, and that when Edith arrives at the Hall, he's actually already on a ship following her. (The ship carrying her mail would be a few days ahead of him.)
  • Too Dumb to Live: Dr. Alan McMichael and Sir Thomas Sharpe. Alan walks within arms' reach of Lucille with his hands full, after confessing he knows everything about the siblings' crimes and is, presumably, going to expose them to the police. He is then surprised when she tries to murder him. Thomas confesses he is going to keep Edith around to his murderous, jealous sister who is more unstable than usual. The latter is immediately killed in a fit of rage, but at least had the excuse he would not expect it because of her love for him. The former was just plain stupid.
    • The latter is particularly egregious since he'd gotten Edith to trust him again, got the knife from her, and went to see Lucille to "finish it." He immediately halts that plan once he sees her.
    • The former, however is justifiable, as Alan kept his attention on Thomas, the other man in the room. Given that preceding scene had Lucille offering Thomas the knife, there was a 50/50 chance to the viewer that Thomas would take a stab at killing Alan.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Lucille, after her If I Can't Have You fit of rage toward Thomas leads to her murdering him. The shock from that turns her into a shrieking, meat cleaver-wielding madwoman.
  • Villainous Incest: The Sharpe siblings a la Flowers in the Attic.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The few servants that still remain in the house disappear halfway through the movie.
  • White Shirt of Death: It's a nightgown and she doesn't die, but Edith's white outfit gets very red in spots by the end.
  • Woman in Black:
    • The skeletal ghost of Edith's mother is shrouded in a black funeral dress.
    • Quite a bit of Lucille's clothes are this as well.
  • Woman in White: Edith, with her pale skin and hair, in a white nightgown in the middle of a snow storm.
  • Yandere: Lucille.
  • You Monster!: Edith calls Thomas and Lucille this. The latter just replies that their mother called them monsters before she died.