what-do-you-think-of-the-new-crimson-peak-motion-poster-403184By Jarrod Jones. Creaky doors and banging pipes? Check. Vats full of blood — or, at least, something that looks an awful lot like blood — in the basement? Check. Shifty-eyed roommates? You betcha. Yup, Guillermo Del Toro’s latest spookfest Crimson Peak sure has the bonafides to be considered a full-fledged horror romp, and for the most part it would be — it’s just not the kind of visceral horror you might expect from “the visionary director of Pan’s Labyrinth“. This is more like some kinda uninvited hybrid between Jane Austen and Mary Shelley. (And wouldn’t you know it? They both get era-appropriate name drops here.)

Considering what the director has put out in the past — not just Labyrinth, everyone brings that up — but the crazy-violent Blade II and yes, even Mimic, Del Toro is firmly established as a filmmaker who loves to make his audience squirm in their seats in wildly inventive ways. And when he’s not busy crafting similar genre fare — or, y’know, walking away from them — Del Toro works overtime to appease his fanbase (the man recently joined Twitter so that he could more closely survey the landscape of his fandom), and that level of care is plainly evident in Crimson Peak.

Billed by the filmmaker himself as a Gothic romance for “his inner 14 year-old bookish girl”, you can almost hear the wistful sighs of well-read teenagers the world over as Del Toro provides slinky Fincherian shots of the titular mansion, the red-stained snowdrifts outside, and yes, even geekdom’s most unhealthy fascination, Tom Hiddleston (the director even makes sure to squeeze in a shot of Loki’s pale little bum). You can almost hear the scribble of notes as these kids consider the intricacies of next year’s comic-con cosplay choices, and it’s really no wonder as to why: the art direction of this film, as it is with most Del Toro offerings, is really the star attraction of Crimson Peak, where the director’s loving attention to detail provides lush, gasp-inspiring shots of rich, dark velvets, dapper longcoats, and even a deep, dark, scarlet promise ring.

But what about the ghosts? Well, I’m getting to that.


First, there’s the matter of young, beautiful Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), a young lady of affluence who burdens herself with ponderous tomes in order to further her own writing ambitions. (She uses the typewriters in the offices of her captain-of-industry father to obscure the feminine handwriting in her manuscripts, but, as Edith quickly finds out, she can’t type away crummy writing.) As she’s of the unconventional sort, prone to dropping bon mots all over stuffy socialites at will, genre conventions dictate that she be the object of desire for not one, but two incredibly handsome men, both of which sit at either end of a spectrum: there’s Dr. Alan McMichael (Pacific Rim‘s Charlie Hunnam), a kindly quack who just wants to give Edith a housecall, and there’s Baronet Thomas Sharp (Hiddleston), a dodgy aristocrat scrambling to salvage his family’s wealth, a man whose eyes are crossed with dollar signs whenever Edith enters a room. (Oh, and he’s constantly flanked by his hostile-ass sister, played wonderfully by Jessica Chastain.) How does the good doctor fare in this scenario? Well, let me put it this way: have you seen The Shining? Think Scatman Crothers.

But–the ghosts! you might say. Yeah. About them.

It’s a curious thing that a film as shockingly violent as Crimson Peak would have so little to offer in the way of actual fright. There are moments where you might jolt out of a narrative-induced sleepiness by the film’s four jump scares (maximized in sudden bursts of percussion by Fernando Velázquez’s thundering score), but it’s quickly established (in the film’s first couple of spectral visits) that these phantoms are here to help our heroine navigate the Sharp siblings’ sinister subterfuge, they just don’t know how to properly express themselves. (Maybe that’s because they’re tormented ghosts.)

If you need help in deciphering the riddle that is Crimson Peak, here’s a spoiler: you absolutely won’t. Del Toro loves you too much to stymie you with burdensome questions, so he lets his artful foreshadowing skew on the painfully obvious. “The ghosts are a metaphor,” Edith explains to a laughably unimpressed publisher. I think he gets that, E.