Synopsis: In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds – and remembers.
Guillermo del Toro’s obsession with the things that go bump in the night began at an early age. He distinctively remembers seeing monsters from his crib and would frequently wet his bed making his mother upset to the point where del Toro finally decided to make a deal that if the monsters would allow him to go to the bathroom he would be their friend forever. Then there is the story of his Uncle Guillermo (whom he is named after) being fascinated with the occult and horror in general. One conversation led to a ghostly visit in which the younger Guillermo told his beloved uncle that when one of them passes on to the great beyond that they should come visit the other to prove that there is such a thing as the after life. When Uncle Guillermo did eventually die del Toro inherited the guest room his uncle frequented whenever he visited. One night while doing homework Guillermo began hearing groaning and deep breathing. Curious to find out where these sounds were resonating from he quickly turned off the television and closed the nearest window only to discover that the breathing was following him around the room. It got to the point where Guillermo checked his pillow and the mattress itself where he made the eerie discovery that the moaning was echoing throughout the bed springs and not long afterwards decided to never sleep in that room again.
The key thing that makes me such a huge Guillermo Del Toro fan is never quite knowing where each new project of his is going to be focused. When he came up with the concept of Pacific Rim and excitedly described fusing the kaiju and mecha genres together as one I couldn’t wait to see how he would transfer his soul into each metropolis leveling leviathan. When Pacific Rim hit theaters in July 2013 I wasn’t disappointed and as I made my way toward the exit I began to wonder where Guillermo would hang his hat next. When it was announced that his next directorial project would see him return to telling another ghost story a sly smile formed across my face as I said to myself ‘This will be vintage Del Toro!’ For the most part Crimson Peak is a love letter to those who grew up with the golden age of Gothic horror of the 1960s and 70s. I say for the most part because the first 35 minutes feel like something out of PBS’s Masterpiece block of programming. It’s not what you’d call a slow burn especially when a romantic subplot goes from simple flirting to marriage quicker than a hiccup. That minor annoyance aside as soon as story shifts to the newlywed couple moving into the haunted family estate is where Guillermo lets his brilliance run wild and free. Every scene is beautifully shot and like every Del Toro production it doesn’t take long to get lost in the sense of scale. Reading the movie trivia on IMDB the house used was built specifically for this film as was every item in it so when production wrapped it was torn down to make room for studio space which is a shame because its one of those structures that if it was left standing a majority of people would take one look at it and go yep that place is undoubtedly haunted. Where Crimson Peak really dials in it at is with the beyond outstanding performances from Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain. The chemistry between the two is so well executed to the point where everyone else has a difficult task keeping up. I’m not what you call an overly romantic type and there were several moments where I ended up rolling my eyes yet as soon as Del Toro got away from that and pushed the accelerator down to the floor board Crimson Peak rarely lost any momentum. I’m looking forward to giving it another watch since like any other Del Toro production there’s always going to be something you’re going to miss the first time around. That’s the power of Guillermo Del Toro though as long as those things still go bump in the night continue to haunt his memories he’ll keep the creative juices flowing.
Final Grade: B