The haunted house is back, in time for Halloween, with the new movie Crimson Peak.  This film, directed and co-written by Guillermo del Toro, is a 19th century horror-thriller-mystery film that's almost painfully Gothic.

As a little girl Edith Cushing was visited by the skeletal ghost of her mother, who warned Edith to beware of Crimson Peak.  Jump ahead 14 years, and Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is a writer, often telling people that her story isn't a ghost story but "a story with a ghost in it."  She's not interested in romance or society, so naturally she catches the eye of two prominent gentlemen in society.  Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnan) has been interested in her for a while, but she considers him just a friend.

Then there's Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a struggling aristocrat from England.  Thomas has come to America to earn capital from Edith's father Carter (Jim Beaver) to build a machine to mine the rare red clay from his family land.  Edith is entranced by Thomas, even while Carter is suspicious of the man.  Thomas' strange piano-playing sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) is also there.
Jump ahead, and Edith has joined Thomas and Lucille at Allerdale Hall, the family mansion of the Sharpe family.  The mansion is decaying, with rotting or missing boards, creaking at all hours, and the sound of rushing wind; even the red clay results in red oozing from the floors and making the tap water run red.  Thomas warns Edith not to descent beneath the main level, while Lucille keeps certain rooms locked from Edith.  The mansion is far from town, with Edith's only friend being a small dog the Sharpes thought would have perished.  And Edith investigates the mystery surrounding the Sharpes, as she gets sicker and sees more skeletal ghosts in the house...

I appreciate a supernatural movie that offers intelligence and investigation rather than simple spooks and scares, but Crimson Peak was disappointing.  While the movie had an interesting color scare, it felt like it was cramming element of the Gothic tradition into the movie, without it adding up to much.  The acting was adequate but not more, the surprises and revelations were easy to predict, and the movie quickly gave up on being scary early on, without replacing it with suspense or consistency.  (The ending also left the audience with some unnecessarily unresolved elements.)  Crimson Peak is too focused on being Gothic to be really entertaining.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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