Crimson Peak – Movie Critique

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston & Jessica Chastain
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Rated R
Released October 16, 2015

Overall review  





Crimson Peak virgins – stop reading if you don’t want me to ruin your October!

I don’t know if I’ve ever written a movie critique on the Thought Pantry before (all these years and not a single critique?!!) Crimson Peak was was one of my most highly anticipated films of 2015, so naturally after I watched it I wanted SO BADLY to talk about its beauties and downfalls with someone…anyone. That someone is you :) As all critiques go, the following are just the personal opinions of a Guillermo-obsessed, Hiddleston-gushing puppy-girl who has an affinity for gothic romance and horror.

I’ll highlight the major “juice” from beginning to end. I promise this next thing I’m bringing up is not a complete tangent, but did you ever watch Kill Bill 2? Remember when Elle Driver is about to buy the Hanzo sword from Budd? She asks him “How does this one compare to that? and Budd replies “If you’re gonna compare a Hanzo sword, you compare it to every other sword ever made… that wasn’t made by Hattori Hanzo.” Well, on the contrary I feel like if I ever need to compare aspects of Crimson Peak with another movie, I only dare compare it to another Guillermo film. That other film will be Pan’s Labyrinth, the best damn thing Guillermo Del Toro has EVER written & directed and hands down my favorite fantasy-horror film of all time. But anyways, back to CP…


#1 The opening line of Crimson Peak is a ball of cheese (cause it’s cheesy and it stinks). It starts with 20-something year old writer Edith Cushing, daughter of a wealthy self-made industrialist Carter Cushing, saying something like “Ghosts are real.” I chuckled inside and reminded myself “Ang, this is a gothic romance which is bound to have a few frou-frou melodramatic lines. But just a few right? I mean, the whole movie can’t be like this…

#2 The ghosts in this film are so sweepingly conventional, bare-naked rib cage and all, that it’s terrifying. Terrifyingly bad. Edith loses her mother to an illness early in the movie and is immediately visited by her mother’s black, disfigured ghost. The upper half of Guillermo’s ghost reminded me of skeleton decoration that I saw around Value Village but worse because there’s a mist maker hidden somewhere inside ghost-mom’s ribs, blowing whisps of black…smoke?…body odor? Who knows. On the upside, when the ghost wraps its long shiny black talons over young-Edith’s shoulders, we get a glimpse of Guillermo’s genius and wonder….nay HOPE…that he will use more animatronics or complex makeup for his Crimson creatures.


#3 I’ll tell you what Guillermo got right (one of three main things) and that’s the big C. Costumes. He hit the nail on the head with the late Victorian fashion (late 1800s). What he does best with creatures and monsters he was able to translate onto constructed fabric with big ruffled bustles (big butts yo), intricate lace, black velvet drapery, tailored jackets, BALLOONING sleeves, creepy white nightgowns, etc. The colors in the beginning of the film are bold with mustard yellow and wine red making appearances on Wasikowska and Chastain. I couldn’t stop grinning at the sight of all that satin! Crunch, crunch, swoosh. It was so rich my eyes were having digestive problems.

A lot of attention went into the difference in costumes depending on location (when they’re in the bustling city of Buffalo, the colors are warm and popping…then it sneakily transitions to blacks & blues in haunted Allerdale Hall). I loved reading Kate Hawley’s approach to the costume design:

…we go to the world of Allerdale, we take the glasses off and we see the reality of the world that they’re in…It’s sun and moon, night and day, winter and summer. Polar opposites.

…Edith takes on the gothic qualities of the house. The house really dictated how to approach the costumes, from a sculptural point of view. I didn’t want to get myself caught up in details that didn’t feel like it meant anything, like generic lace or decoration. So all the details we made came from the symbolism of the characters or the house itself. The leaves on Lucille’s dress were constructed by hand, with a single piece of cording. And for Edith, (there were) motifs of flowers, because she blooms. It was about trying to create an atmosphere.

So there’s the two leading ladies with the juxtaposition of good and evil made plainly obvious through their costumes which I didn’t even mind. Edith wearing angelic hues of ivory and yellow with (80’s permed?) feathery blonde hair, prancing around in her diaphanous mumu of a night dress. Then there’s her cold, cryptic sister-in-law, Lucille, who makes her first appearance wearing the bloodiest-red satin dress you’ve ever seen playing the piano like a mofo. Right then and there I realized that THIS dress is what Chastain was meant to wear her whole life and is probably the best thing she will ever wear in her entire movie career.











Filming of Crimson Peak at Dundurn Castle Tuesday. Charlie Hunnam, centre, waits to walk into a scene. John Rennison The Hamilton Spectator 5/6/14

Filming of Crimson Peak at Dundurn Castle Tuesday.
Charlie Hunnam, centre, waits to walk into a scene.
John Rennison The Hamilton Spectator

Filming of Crimson Peak at Dundurn Castle Tuesday. Jessica Chastain waves at fans as she heads off set for a break. John Rennison The Hamilton Spectator 5/6/14

Filming of Crimson Peak at Dundurn Castle Tuesday.
Jessica Chastain waves at fans as she heads off set for a break.
John Rennison The Hamilton Spectator

Crimson Peak (1)

#4 Now the best thing about this entire film was (no surprise here) the breathtaking SET DESIGN. Sad to say but this really is the film’s saving grace. When Edith walks into her new home (her new husband, Thomas Sharpe’s, family estate and the craziest haunted house ride she’ll ever experience), your heart just flutters. You can almost hear your pupils dilate. Of course it makes sense since Guillermo collaborated with production designer Tom Sanders who did Dracula and Braveheart. Every square inch of this twisted black house is a vision, enough to make Edgar Allan Poe tear up. Sanders explained that “the whole house was designed and built in layers. I felt I could bring the history of the family into each layer and show how each generation changed what the previous one had done.” The interior suddenly reminded me of Harlaxton Manor from the 1999 film The Haunting, full of black darted archways (waiting to drop and impale someone), a winding stair case (where someone could easily take a tumble), occasional chairs (that I could never afford), a fireplace (that probably lights itself up every night), lots of painted portraits (all those eyes judging your every move), geometric floor tiles (don’t take a black light to it), and (no surprise here cause it’s a key ingredient to a gothic living room) a large looming portrait of Lucille and Thomas’s dead mother looking haggard and grumpy as hell next to the grand piano. Guillermo explains:

The house is really a rotting representation of the family that has inhabited it, more than a haunted house in a traditional sense. It’s like a cage, a killing jar that you use to kill insects that you kill butterflies with. That’s the house. The house basically is a sinister, sinister trap.



Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak

#5 Speaking of a killing jar for insects, I will now segue into Guillermo’s use (or should I say super contrived attempts) at using metaphors in this film. I get it. This is a gothic (or “goffic”as I like to say) romance and therefore unapologetically full of common rhetorical devices (no different than Jane Eyre or Rebecca). What’s it gonna be Guillermo? We’ve already got the mansion symbolizing hidden secrets from the past. The house itself is built on a bubbling red clay mine that literally BLEEDS into the snow’s surface all around the estate (kind of like a giant tampon…gross). But metaphorically speaking, this is a sinking crime scene where the red clay can symbolize the sealing, or marriage, between Edith and Thomas which was always, from the start, cursed and built on blood & deceit.

Now I don’t know about you, but I like my metaphors a little less cliche. Why not let the audience bring a little something to the table? Earlier in the movie while they’re still in Buffalo, New York, Edith and Lucille have a conversation about moths and butterflies. Edith points out a bunch of dead and dying butterflies on the ground which prompts Lucille to say “Where I live we only have black moths which are not as pretty but far tougher.” Edith asks her “What do the moths eat?” and Lucille replies “Butterflies.” Ok…so Edith is the butterfly…Lucille is the tough moth…scary mean Lucille is gonna eat Edith alive. Meh, you can do better than this Guillermo. Also his attempts at bringing up moths…lots of them…randomly throughout the house felt very unnecessary. It was like a Burton film…what the hell…just throw in another pumpkin, maybe a bat, a scarecrow.

The metaphors get a tiny better after the characters reach Allerdale when Edith comes across a yappy stray dog – a papillon – and decides to keep it. Lucille seems very displeased because it belonged to one of Thomas’s late wives (yea she murdered all of them, next!) and they apparently tried to get rid of the fluffy thing a while back. But low and behold, it’s still alive after surviving on scraps. Papillon means “butterfly” in French, so tying back to the previous metaphor, Edith and the dog are one and the same. They’re both fragile in appearance but tough cookies on the inside. I think that Guillermo wanted us so badly to view Edith as a strong female survivor rather than a mere damsel (even though the fight scene between her and Lucille at the end was laughable…I just wanted to hand Edith a pistol so we could skip the painful cat-mouse-ghost-ah! chase altogether).

#6 Speaking of the end scene, we return once again to the matter of ghosts in this film and how lamely they were constructed. Seeing Hiddleston’s emo ghost at the end, which ended up distracting Lucille long enough for Edith to bash her head in, reminded me so much of the ghosts in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or at least all the movie versions that I’ve seen of it. Whispy, grey, and mediocre. Here’s what the ghosts in this film looked like:






And then we remember the masterful creatures that Guillermo is capable of summoning like in Pan’s Labyrinth:


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Crimson Peak’s CGI-heavy ghosts are simply no match for Pan’s animatronics. And when Guillermo does use special effects, I prefer when he does it sparingly. When I watched Pan’s Labyrinth for the first time about 8 or 9 years ago, I was utterly blown away and left in awe; I could really feel the love that went into the (latex foam) Faun or the forever iconic saggy-skinned Pale Man (inspired by Guillermo’s own weight loss!) and have highly respected Guillermo since then.

#7 While we’re on the topic of comparing, I need to point out that Pan’s Labyrinth had the most beautiful musical score composed by Javier Navarrete which was based entirely around a haunting lullaby (nominated for an academy award) and Crimson Peak…did not. Aside from Lucille’s sporadic (albeit very talented) piano playing scenes, none of the music in this film affected me, got stuck in my head, stood out, or even tempted me to download it. Was there even a musical score? I…don’t remember.

#8 Unlike the music, Guillermo’s pick of actors was, save maybe Charlie Hunnam, golden. Chastain, Hiddleston and Wasikowska are all highly respectable in their own rights – a threesome not to be reckoned with no matter what century they’re in – which gave me every reason to think that this film was gonna be KILLER (pun intended). But that’s where the beauty ends. While I approved of the cast and got the sense that they were giving their all in this film, Chastain and Wasikowska’s performances were (whether intentional or not) flat. The script was flat. It wasn’t AS bad as the lines delivered in Star Wars Episode 2 (when Anakin tries to flirt with Padme but all I wanted to do was swallow a bunch of lit matches) but it reminded me of that. Chastain pulled off the psycho, steely cold sister-in-law from hell pretty well, but something about her delivery felt off…like watching a half-dead fish deliver lines really, really slowly (I’m not even talking about her god-awful accent). Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) who plays the dashing gentleman perfectly begins a relationship with Edith at an unrealistic and rushed pace; it was hard to believe that this smart, independently spirited, eff-romance-I’m-gonna-write-ghost-stories! girl really does fall for the first guy who dances the waltz with her. She also manages to ignore all the telltale signs of a messed up marriage by (ignoring? forgetting?) all the ugly red ghosts popping out of nowhere and then dismisses all the blood that she’s coughing up. Why yes I think I WILL have more unbelievably bitter tea that leaves my tongue completely numb…thank you Lucille.


Probably the worst part of it all was learning that everyone in this film is exactly as they seem, and your suspicions turn out to be dead right about…everything. Oh, does it seem like Lucille is really into her brother because of the way she dolefully looks at him at every turn and hates his new wife? Could they be…involved?! Yes, they’re totally doing it and I’m sorry Guillermo but Game of Thrones beat you to it – incestual brother-sister relationships were so 2011. Finding out that this (and Lucille’s murderous streak, gasp!) were the major secrets and “plot twists” of the film left me feeling…hungry. Does anyone want to watch Pan’s Labyrinth with me?


All in all, I had a love affair with the film’s set design and felt like it was visually, as someone said on Rotten Tomato, a feast for the eyes. But aside from that, the costumes, and the view of Hiddleston’s butt, I was disappointed and almost wish this was a Spanish film because at least the language barrier would’ve been a distraction from the obvious turn of events. But it’s nothing a new and exciting trailer of Star Wars can’t fix I suppose :)

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“So it goes”

In most cases, I go for weeks and MONTHS without blogging because of those invisible antagonists like laziness, forgetfulness or busyness. Between work, spending the weekends with friends, arting (when you art just for fun), going on trips, and being a wife and friend to my hubby, I find such few moments where I can just sit down and type ALL THIS stuff. But lets face it – you also have to be in the right mood for blogging.

And to be honest, I haven’t been in the mood to blog for months. Not for 6 months. I’ve been afraid of this space for so long and just kept it in the dark – in the tip top dusty shelf of my head space where I didn’t have to think about it or look at it in the eyes. Only 12 hours after I wrote my last blog post, our sweet Curie passed away. It was the darkest and roughest night of our lives, and until this day, it hurts me so much thinking about the moments leading up to our decision to euthanize her. She was too far gone and was in too much pain that we ended up helping her go. Saying good bye but not being able to explain to her what was happening or how much I loved her was the hardest part, and I wish that I could’ve at least removed her fear if not all the pain before her final panicked breath. I read a lot of blogs after that day, just to see how other people coped with euthanasia. No matter the situation, it seemed like all parents experienced some measure of regret. Did we euthanize her too soon? Did we wait too long? Would we have had more time if we gave her more of a fighting chance? Oh god, why did we wait so long? Why did we do that. Why didn’t we just rush her into the vet and alleviate her pain HOURS ago? So many hours. We waited all night long. We waited too long. Stupid, stupid.

Fast forward about 6 months. My husband and I are driving back from our friend’s house after dinner, talking about what he wants for his birthday which is his first tattoo. He tells me he wants the phrase “So it goes” tattooed somewhere on his body and I ask him where that phrase comes from. He says it’s a reoccurring refrain from the book Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut which is an autobiographical science-fiction book of sorts that explores themes like the illusion of free will and inevitability. Spark Notes of course summarizes this phrase nicely:

The phrase “So it goes” follows every mention of death in the novel, equalizing all of them, whether they are natural, accidental, or intentional, and whether they occur on a massive scale or on a very personal one. The phrase reflects a kind of comfort in the Tralfamadorian idea that although a person may be dead in a particular moment, he or she is alive in all the other moments of his or her life, which coexist and can be visited over and over through time travel. At the same time, though, the repetition of the phrase keeps a tally of the cumulative force of death throughout the novel, thus pointing out the tragic inevitability of death.

Ben was explaining to me that there’s a kind of comfort in the phrase “So it goes” because it supplements the fact that many (or all depending on your philosophy) life events are out of our control. Bad things happen and we can not do anything about it. A person, pet, family, village or an entire race of people dies and yet the universe and our world as we know it goes on spinning. We go on. If you don’t, then something else will. The passage of time is unmoved by our pains or shaky grip of reality. Some of this is hard for people to grasp, especially in conjunction with things like religion. I can delve into the riddle of “free will” and write many blog posts about consciousness, brain complexity, and the sort of depressing position of determinism. But if you try to understand it from Vonnegut’s perspective and accept your powerlessness in the unavoidable (like death, taxes, pop up ads, etc.), then you would realize that there is actually a LACK of meaning in these deaths.

Curie’s death happened and “so it goes.” I’m grateful for the AMAZING photos and 5 years of memories we have of her that live on inside our minds. What a pup! What a beard she had :) It helps to accept the calm in the almost legal affirmation of this phrase, and nothing has helped more than simply the passing of time which lessens and heals all wounds.

Doggy vacation

The ending of 2014 and start of 2015 have been both amazing and bittersweet for the husBen and I. One thing that sticks out the most is Curie’s diagnosis of cancer. Curie and Voltaire, our two mini schnauzers, have been with us since June and September 2010. They’ve pretty much been the love and fluff of our lives, opening our unexperienced eyes to all sorts of adventures and “Oh god, is this what it’s like to have kids?!” kind of moments.

We noticed a change in Curie’s movement and energy back in November. Just to preface, she is without a doubt the most spunky and OUTSPOKEN dog I’ve ever met with an appetite that rivals my own. With this grandma policing the grounds, not a single rice kernel or Dorito chip gets dropped unnoticed. Curie’s nose always appears out of nowhere only to touch the spot and…just like a Dyson…it’s gone. Sometimes even her bowl of kibbles is not enough. Voltaire, our more submissive boy, is always happy to move aside and let his sister finish his bowl (a lot like how I jab my fork at Ben’s bowl of panang curry while he’s still eating…) Anyways, in November we noticed she was eating less and less. Her movements were getting slower and, in December, there was a scary fluctuation in her body where one second she seemed find and then all of a sudden she would be hobbling in pain, practically immobile. Her entire belly was large and tender and we could no longer touch it or pick her up without her yelping.



We went to the vet many, MANY times. Once or twice a week. The first blood work came back to confirm she had pancreatitis (very common amongst schnauzers). So every time she was struck down with pain, we assumed it was that and switched her to a low-fat prescription diet. But the belly aches always returned, leaving even her gums and tongue so pale (nearly white) which the doctors said was a sign of dehydration and possibly a leakage of blood somewhere internally. In January, we finally took an Xray as well as an ultrasound. The Xray showed that her lungs were free of cancer cells which was a huge relief (because by the time those reach the lungs, it’s usually too late) but her ultrasound showed huge masses in her spleen that somehow went unnoticed in previous vet visits (probably because when it did get large she would do something like jump on a couch too quickly and tear the mass, causing it to bleed and disappear for a short time only to return).

Curie went into surgery immediately and had a splenectomy after they found three masses. After the biopsy, we were told that it was indeed cancer. The really bad kind. Frankly we were shocked and I couldn’t hold back the tears while the surgeon explained what would happen. Canine hemangiosarcoma is a tumor that lines the blood vessels (essentially a tumor of the blood) which makes it extremely tricky and destructive because it travels quickly and usually hits the lungs, liver, heart or brain first. 1 out of 5 Golden Retrievers will battle this during their lifetime, and “1.5 to 2.5 million out of 72 million dogs will get hemangiosarcoma and succumb to it”. The cancer cells in our baby Curie were going to spread in the next 3-4 months and she would pass a few weeks after that. That was the hard fact and I panicked inside because we were almost out of time. 3 or 4 months? That’s it. That would give us until April or May. June if we were lucky. Curie might see us in our silly costumes for Emerald City Comicon and excitedly bark at all the episodes of Game of Thrones season 5 (she loves watching those horses run on screen) but there’s no guarantee. She most likely won’t make it to her 13th birthday in June (we adopted her on June 4th, 2010) and we’ll have to feed her a delicious box of canine cookies early.

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(Did someone say TREAT?!!)


But even with the grave news, there were so many things to be grateful for after the surgery. For one, Curie was no longer in excruciating pain like she was back in December. It was a night and day difference and it made the surgery worth every penny. After a week of bed rest, she was relinquished from the cone of shame, bouncing around and barking like her usual self. She was munching down on her food like the little piggy that I know, though her belly was tremendously smaller than it was before since there was no longer a spleen or three tumors. But the most heart warming thing was what our amazing friend, Erin, did on Curie’s behalf. After I told my friends and co-workers what had happened and about the financial expense of the surgery, Erin took it upon herself to set up a Tilt account. Basically it’s a campaign site where you set up a page that describes a goal you want to reach, and then you start collecting donations from family, friends and even strangers who wish to contribute. You set a minimum “tilt” goal (so no one’s credit card is charged until you hit that number) and you continue raising money towards the goal after you tilt. When Ben and I found out what Erin had done, we were just overcome with gratification and what can only be compared to as the best heartburn. Wow. Just WOW!!!! Our amazing friends (even my boss!) had pitched in on behalf of our baby girl and raised a whopping $1,779!!! Holy schnauzer!!! I can only cry (some more) and thank each and every person who sent us their love. We were overwhelmed, truly.


With a few precious months left, we decided in early February that we’d go on as many adventures as possible and at least one memorable trip (which we did just this past weekend!) With our dear friends Kelsi, Ryan and their puppy Bourbon, we drove down to Oregon and rented a cute little house only a walk away from Cannon Beach. It was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever set eyes on (that line kind of upsets me because it’s definitely an understatement…everyone says that psh). William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition once described this beach as “…the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed, in front of a boundless Ocean…” back in 1806 (meh, basically what I just said). I’ve never seen the sky and giant rocks reflected in wet sand the way it is on the Oregon coast. Everything shines, and if you span the beach with your eyes, your left and right look misty and blue but the sunset in front of you is ablazed in pink and gold which makes the blue seem misplaced but hauntingly alluring. It’s what I imagine the coasts of England to look like.


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Those few days we spent frolicking in the sand, barking at other dogs, playing board games and just soaking in all the wonders around us.



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It was the most perfect trip and I think Curie had a blast :)


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