This goofy, gothic horror/romance from Mexican auteur Guillermo del Toro ("Pan's Labrynth") is positively dripping in bloody mood, but forgot to pack the intrigue. It's a ghost tale in which the supernatural twist is spelled out for us from the very start. When the mystery is gone, so goes the thrill.
If that weren't bad enough, the evil twin siblings actually stand around and discuss their nefarious plans to the audience and, eventually, even the intended victim herself, who the brother has married for her money and then, tragically, actually fallen in love with.
We should kill her now, sister urges. Let's wait a while longer, he cautions, heart fluttering.
My God, people, do I really need to sit here and tell you that having characters blurt exactly what they're going to do and how they're going to do it tends to make a movie less, y'know, good? That when the heroine of the picture is the only one who's not clued in to what's happening, the audience will resent her for her stupidity rather than root for her resourcefulness?
Del Toro, who co-wrote the script with Matthew Robbins, is a feast-or-famine director whose stuff I've either loved ("Pacific Rim") or loathed ("Mimic"). He's a visionary filmmaker who sometimes fumbles with the ABC's of storytelling.
There was some consternation when the trailer for this highly anticipated movie seemed to reveal too much of the plot. That ire seems hilarious now; the film gives away so much of itself from the very outset that there's nothing left to tease. It's like a stripper who walks out onstage and drops all her clothes in a heap at once right after the song's started.
Mia Wasikowska plays Edith, an aspiring writer and proto-feminist in 1901 Buffalo. Dad (Jim Beaver) is a wealthy real estate guy who built himself up; mother is long dead of cholera, but occasionally turns up as a smoking, blackened corpse to warn her daughter to stay away from Crimson Peak.
(The creepy effects for the ghosts ae one of the few things about the movie that's special.)
In waltzes Baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), the charming son of an old British house fallen low. He and his steely sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), who practically hisses at the local gentry, are in town to raise some grub to revive the family mining operation. In short order Edith is bedazzled and wedded, but not bedded.
The Sharpes bring her back to the family manse, Allerdale Hall, which is literally sinking into the earth. It seems there's a very rare ore that's blood red and oozes up from under the building foundation, staining the ground as Thomas labors on a machine to harvest it.
Don't be worried about the walls that bleed or the constant groaning sounds produced by the wind, Lucille reassures, and Edith, the ninny, goes along with it. Even when she starts to see more corpses crawling up out of the mansion's rotting floorboards, her devotion to a man she met like three weeks earlier manages to overcome her doubts.
Things go on from there, which I won't reveal because I don't want to rob you of the satisfaction of figuring it all out for yourself 15 minutes into the movie.
"Crimson Peak" is an overstuffed movie of poofy dresses and poofy hair hiding airheaded characters who tell you what they're about so you don't have to overtax your brain. What a bloody nightmare.