Guillermo del Toro has crafted a texturally sumptuous, period horror film that invigorates the gothic haunted house tale. After a family tragedy, young writer Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) falls under the spell of a young baronet, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Soon, the couple is married and moving to the crumbling ancestral home he shares with his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain). The house, nicknamed Crimson Peak due to the bleeding effect of the surrounding red clay fields on the snow-white landscape, may also hold some supernatural secrets; incidentally, the ghost of Edith’s mother has been warning her of Crimson Peak for years. Too bad Edith did not just stay in America and marry her childhood friend, played by “Sons of Anarchy”’s Charlie Hunnam (who also starred in GDT’s fun kaiju flick, Pacific Rim).
The fragile Wasikowska travels gracefully back in time; she could do worse than conjure images of Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight and Joan Fontaine in Rebecca, who also played young brides haunted by their husbands’ pasts. Crimson Peak is the most beautiful horror movie since Suspiria. (Why has del Toro’s name never surfaced for that long-gestating remake?) After its lively, jaunty opening scenes aping an Edith Wharton novel of manners, the film settles into periodic grotesquerie and violence, while never establishing an atmosphere of terror. Perhaps every scene is too bright and colorful, despite the house’s state of ghastly (ghostly?) disrepair. Crimson Peak will be a horror gem fans will be discovering for decades.