Jean-Paul’s Rating: 2/5 stars
Bottom Line: Well costumed and well designed. Interesting setup with little notable follow-through. Goes for cheap scares that don’t really even play a part in the plot.
Ghosts are real. This much I know. I know this because Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) told me so. She’s seen them all her life. Well, except for the time between birth and when her mother died and then the time between when her mother died and when the main story starts. So really, she’s seen one ghost many years ago as a child. But who’s counting? Well, ok, me. Not a good start to a movie when you begin with a lie just to set mood.
Then comes a decent, if a little longish setup. There are plenty of holes that can be poked in this setup, but most of those are only visible in hindsight. If I weren’t writing this review, I’d probably never have even thought of them. The one that did bother me is, this is supposed to be a ghost story, right? Where are the ghosts? Or, more to the point, where are the ghosts that actually mean something? They’re used mostly as background noise with a little bit of dire foreboding thrown in. Some talk, most just wail. Luckily (?), the ones that could actually further the plot only wail. The dire foreboding is soundly ignored like all dire foreboding should be. It is giving away nothing so here is the sole dire foreboding: Beware Crimson Peak! Edith Cushing, of course, then blindly follows Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) back to a severely dilapidated mansion on top of a hill surrounded by red mud that oozes out of the ground and literally runs down the walls defying all rules of gravity and then is shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to learn days later when Thomas casually mentions that they call the place Crimson Peak. “Oh,” says Edith, “I thought of it more as a Scarlet Knoll”. Ok, she doesn’t really utter those words, but she does express shock and finally realizes that she might be in trouble.
It is unfortunate that the story is so soft because the acting is pretty good and the design is outstanding. This movie would have been better as a straight horror story or a straight whodunnit. Instead it’s an amalgam of horror and whodunnit with little to like about either portion. That’s Guillermo del Toro for you, though, top notch style always, very shaky on the substance.