REVIEW: Crimson Peak (15) ***

Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska in Crimson Peak
Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska in Crimson Peak
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Romance/thriller starring Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver and Sofia Wells.

Set in 19th century New York and snow-laden Cumbria, Crimson Peak is a tour-de-force of mouldering set and costume design.

As a ghost story, Crimson Peak is suspenseful rather than creepy or chilling.

Ten-year-old Edith Cushing (Sofia Wells) loses her mother to black cholera.

The matriarch’s soul (Doug Jones) visits Edith after a closed casket burial to deliver a chilling warning: ‘Beware of Crimson Peak’.

Fourteen years later, Edith (now played by Mia Wasikowska), is an aspiring author at odds with the prevailing attitudes of late Victorian society.

A British baronet called Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) visits Buffalo, New York to seek funding for his clay extraction machine.

Edith’s ageing father Sir Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver) refuses to finance the contraption, but is powerless to stop his daughter falling under Sir Thomas’ spell.

They marry and move to Sharpe’s crumbling ancestral home, Allerdale Hall in Cumberland.

As Edith acclimatises to her surroundings, she stumbles unwittingly upon dark secrets.

Meanwhile, back in New York, her childhood companion Dr Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) grows suspicious of Sir Thomas.

If looks were everything, then Crimson Peak would be one of the year’s best, especially in lustrous IMAX.

But once you unbutton the picture’s exquisite artistry it becomes apparent how thin the plot strands are that hold together this two-hour spectacle.

Wasikowska captures the resilience of her independent woman, who only fully understands the despicable ulterior motives of Hiddleston when it is too late.

Chastain has the meatier role of the two and embraces her character’s warped obsessiveness with aplomb.

Hunnam’s rival suitor is more of a plot device rather than a fully fledged protagonist and remains in the moth-ravaged background.