Crimson Peak is a film of places. In many scenes in many films, place can often be incidental. A conversation in a car, a walk down a city street, a cute meet in a nondescript cafe. But in Crimson Peak, every locale is essential to the scene, just as much a character as any of the players in a scene. Every room tells a story, every place has a purpose.
It begins in America: the land of opportunity and industry. Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) proposes a dig on his land for a precious clay back in England. Investors are unimpressed with his idea. But America provides another opportunity when Sharpe meets Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), daughter of one of the investors. After her father dies a suspicious death, Thomas proposes marriage and the two head to Allerdale Hall, his home in England.
But this is no ordinary home. The entryway is a decaying mess. The roof has a gaping hole, letting in leaves that pitter about the floor. And beneath, the red clay rises, creating uneven footing and giving the room even more a sense of decay. Around the edges of the room are staircases that are the only sturdy looking thing in the room. This is a broken home.
Touched by the cold of the entryway, the newlyweds take shelter in the kitchen alongside Thomas’s sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). But far from being a place of warmth and nourishment, the kitchen becomes a place of heated debates, fits of passion as the flames of envy, fear, and violence are stoked.
Therefore, the bedroom becomes a place of solace. It’s here where quiet, intimate moments are had. The simple pleasures of being alone with someone, or keeping company with oneself. It’s the closest a place has to being peaceful and serene. But it doesn’t last as supernatural forces invade the privacy of the bedroom.
A ghosts appear down long hallways, her screams echoing down the long chamber. Down a straight line they come, not a modicum of deviation. It is the room of inevitability. There is no escape in the hall. The doors are shut, the way is blocked, confrontation with the supernatural is unavoidable.
But to truly understand the house, dirty secrets must be unearthed. And secrets are kept locked away in the basement. Filled with vats of red clay, the basement is a shrine to greed. But more than that, the red clay hides a darker secret, the missing piece in the grand puzzle that is an alien home.
Much like The Shining, place is essential to the horror of Crimson Peak. The same story could not be told in different locales. Each scene inhabits a certain space for a reason. The where is just as important as the who or the what. Every place adds another layer of understanding to the evil buried deep in the earth of Crimson Peak. After all, home is where the horror is.
© 2016 James Blake Ewing