"It's not a ghost story," Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) says in Crimson Peak. "It's a story with a ghost in it."
Edith isn't talking about Crimson Peak, though she might as well be. Guillermo del Toro's latest is a visually sumptuous gothic romance—one that, amid all the melodrama, offers slivers of sly wit, loving nods to classic horror, and, by the time it's over, quite a bit of blood. It also has a ghost in it. Or two. Or three.
They're excellent ghosts—ominous visions of roiling smoke, rotting flesh, and shattered skulls—and they seem intent on telling Edith that maybe she shouldn't have moved into a haunted mansion after becoming smitten with Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who lives with this creeeeepy sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain).
Turns out the Sharpes' home, the eponymous Crimson Peak, is the real star of the movie: Built of crumbling rock and rotting wood, it's a ruin where dying leaves flutter through a ragged hole in the roof and tattered walls tremble with the softly beating wings of black moths. And, shocking no one but Edith (C'MON, EDITH), Crimson Peak has seeeecrets.
Gorgeously designed—and shot in slaughterhouse reds, oily blacks, and del Toro's trademark hues of amber—Crimson Peak isn't going to be for everybody. It's a slow burn, and it's frequently silly—a combo that feels all the more unusual given that the horror genre has become reliant on cheap, found-footage jump scares.
But del Toro, cowriter Matthew Robbins, and cinematographer Dan Laustsen bait their hook early—we only get a few minutes into the film before our first sighting of a g-g-g-g-ghost. Once Crimson Peak settles into its sordid, bloody, and unexpectedly fun groove, it ends up somewhere between romance, horror, and dark comedy. Nobody in their right mind would want to live in Crimson Peak (C'MON, EDITH), but del Toro makes it an irresistible place to visit.