Gifted Mexican filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) makes an odd misstep with this overwrought gothic horror thriller, which is so bloated that it's more silly than scary. At least it features a starry cast that has a lot of fun with the characters, providing some emotional undercurrents as things get increasingly crazed. But the truth about this film is that it's a haunted house movie with ghosts that aren't remotely frightening. And worse yet, they're essentially irrelevant to the story.
It's set in late-1800s Buffalo, as young aspiring writer Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is unsure about the romantic advances of her childhood friend Alan (Charlie Hunnam), who is now a hunky doctor. But he fades into the background when the dashing Sir Thomas (Tom Hiddlestone) arrives from England seeking funding from Edith's father (Jim Beaver) for a machine to mine valuable clay from his crumbling ancestral home. As he sweeps Edith off her feet, Thomas' sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) enters the picture with a clearly nefarious plan of her own. Sure enough, Thomas whisks Edith off to get married and return to the family mansion, a freaky towering wreck that oozes red clay. Or that might be blood. And since Edith has a history of seeing ghosts, the house feels particularly crowded to her.
The spirits are rendered as stretched-out skeletons surrounded by spidery wisps. And in England they're of course blood-red. Oddly, they merely seem to be observers to this story, never actually doing much proper menacing. And since they look faintly ridiculous it isn't easy to muster up the dread required to make this work as a horror movie. Everything else on-screen is just as absurd. The mansion looks more like an elaborately dilapidated over-sized movie set than a neglected manor house. Thankfully, Del Toro packs every scene with witty details and a lurid colour scheme that keeps the audience on its toes.
Continue reading: Crimson Peak Review
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