Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is a young, up-and-coming author haunted by her dead mother’s ghost; so of course she writes about them. She firmly declares to an editor reviewing her novel “It’s not a ghost story. It’s a story with a ghost in it,” and the line playfully rings true for Crimson Peak as well. Del Toro toys with the romance genre as Edith gets swept up by Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a British inventor visiting America to get funding for one of his inventions, and she is soon brought to his delightfully disturbing estate across the Atlantic. Del Toro plays with the horror genre with CGI ghosts that appear when Edith is alone and blood-red clay constantly oozing through the walls. Edith, Thomas, and Thomas’s indecipherable sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) endure heightened melodrama, characteristic of Gothic romance, and the excessive emotion is reminiscent silent horror, with del Toro even using iris shots to match. What I most love about del Toro’s horror in Crimson Peak is how he reminded me what it’s like to garner both panic and nervous laughter from an audience. Crimson Peak is funny and sincere, with it’s climax line even reaping roars of laughter and an applause from the people around me. The Gothic romance genre marries things that are seemingly dissimilar, and that del Toro has married the ideas of horror, humor, and a love story all into one is exceptional.
Crimson Peak really amps up in amusement as Lucille grows more and more psychotic. She ends up becoming the movie’s main villain, and Chastain’s batshit insanity is amaaaazing. Chastain delivers speeches with excellent sociopathic pace and floats between rooms with such a frenzied aura that her supporting actress role deserves to be acknowledged. It’s been about 30 years since someone has made a Gothic romance on this scale, and del Toro masterfully reinvigorates the genre with his eye candy wardrobe and sets. There are some noticeable lazy directing kinks, like how he starts Edith off as a feminist author who wants to be the next Mary Shelley and then completely ditches these unique character traits. The horror elements of the movie push away all logical contradictions that appear throughout, and it alternates between being excusable and being outrageous. However, it is safe to say that del Toro has bounced back after 2013’s Pacific Rim. Crimson Peak isn’t a ghost story; it’s a gorgeous, classic tale of romance gone wrong, interspersed with laughs and lunacy and drenched in a memorable sanguine palette. And there are a couple ghosts in it, too.