52° Good Afternoon
52° Good Afternoon

'Crimson Peak' review: Scary has never looked so sumptuous

Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska in

Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska in "Crimson Peak." Credit: AP / Kerry Hayes

The castle creaks, the spirits shriek and blood is everywhere in "Crimson Peak," a gruesomely gorgeous ghost story from writer-director Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labyrinth"). What it lacks in the element of surprise it more than makes up for with opulent visuals, rich details and a pervasive atmosphere of dread. Part Emily Brontë, part Edgar Allan Poe, "Crimson Peak" seeps into your bones like the mist on an English moor.

It begins as a romance in early 20th century Buffalo, New York, where well-born Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) eschews all suitors as she struggles to be taken seriously as a novelist. Only a handsome British newcomer, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), strikes the right note, praising her talent as well as her beauty -- or perhaps he's just trying to convince her wealthy father, Carter (an excellent Jim Beaver), to invest in a weird mining scheme. Either way, Thomas marries young Edith and whisks her overseas to Allerdale Hall.

All of this is so beautifully done -- from the elegant dialogue (co-written by Matthew Robbins) to the candlelight cinematography by Dan Laustsen -- that the movie would have been fairly satisfying if it ended here. Of course, it's just beginning. Allerdale proves to be a haunted mansion to end them all, with pipes that cough red water and a ceiling so rotted that snow piles up on the floor. And who's that playing creepy music on the piano? Why, it's Thomas' sister, Lucille, played by a shiveringly good Jessica Chastain.

Del Toro lays all this on so thick that you can practically hear him cackling with glee. What makes it work -- in addition to the splendid sets and costumes -- is the stellar cast, particularly Hiddleston. The only actor in the "Thor" films who didn't provoke snickering, Hiddleston is marvelous as Sharpe, an enervated aristocrat haunted by dark secrets. It's a role that could have gone to Vincent Price in a past era. (The film's old-fashioned feel is slightly undercut by the CGI ghosts.)

You'll find yourself consistently a step ahead of the plot, but you may not care. "Crimson Peak" is thoroughly entertaining from start to ghastly finish.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

More Entertainment