‘Crimson Peak’ plays to Del Toro’s strengths

QUITE THE SET – The house in Crimson Peak was built specifically for the film, but had to be torn down after production ended.

Set in a delightfully spooky Victorian mansion, Guillermo Del Toro’s “Crimson Peak” is not a ghost story so much as a story with ghosts in it. The same goes for the manuscript written by young aspiring author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska). Ever since she was a child, Edith has been haunted by visions of her mother’s ghost, who warns her to “beware of Crimson Peak” when the time comes. Edith eventually takes a liking to a handsome aristocrat-turned-inventor, much to the dismay of her father and her doctor friend. There’s just something about Sir Thomas (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister, Lady Lucille (Jessica Chastain) that seems off somehow.

After a great personal tragedy Edith marries Thomas and tries to make the best of her situation, but something still isn’t right. Nights in the Sharpe house are filled with mysteriously missing husbands, cold drafts, fitful sleep, and the occasional skeletal ghost dragging its bleeding form across the mansion’s halls. Edith takes to exploring parts of the house previously forbidden to her, and what she finds is a lot more than cobwebs and old toys.

“Crimson Peak” can be compared to Del Toro’s other films, particularly “Pan’s Labyrinth,” in terms of visuals. The Sharpe mansion is perfectly gloomy and falling apart, literally sinking into the clay-filled ground. The ending scene takes place just outside the building during a snowstorm, and the look of the blood-red clay seeping up into the snow (creating the eponymous Crimson Peak) fits well. The house’s ghosts don’t seem out of place for one second – they’re quintessential Del Toro monsters: thin, sharp-looking creatures who move along jerkily but may or may not be as sinister as they seem. My only real problem with the movie is that it’s a bit predictable. It follows the classic Victorian horror formula: girl’s mother dies, girl is raised by single father who’s loving but baffled by her, girl’s father dies, girl falls in love with the wrong guy, girl has to be saved or save herself before it’s too late, roll credits. I also could have done without the “Edith chooses the ‘bad boy’ over the nice guy who has been there all along” theme. The movie may be set a hundred years ago but it’s 2015, writers, you can do better than that. Still, the stereotype of the helpless girl is averted near the end, when, through trials and tribulations, Edith becomes the person she said she wanted to be at the beginning of the movie.

Overall, the movie has more hits than misses. The chemistry between the two leads is strong, not forced, and Jessica Chastain is wonderfully sinister. I was pleased by Charlie Hunnam’s ability to play a levelheaded doctor, seeing as I had previously only seen him in “Sons of Anarchy.”

If you’re looking for a Halloween movie with top-notch visual effects, a storyline that keeps you on your toes and a quality cast, look no further. “Crimson Peak” isn’t a perfect film, but it is a ton of creepy fun.