Normally, I'm not a fan of horror movies. Too often, they're done by second-tier filmmakers with amateurish actors. Usually, there's little originality to the story, especially if there's a creepy old house with ghosts in it. When there's violence, it's usually the brutal slashing kind, where the monsters appear to just indiscriminately slaughter humans. It's especially irritating when the frightened humans split up so the monster can then divide and conquer more easily.
But, the horror genre can also invite cinematic creativity, and can produce genuine spine-tingling sensations, beyond the cheap “turn-up-the-sound-and-jump-out-at-you.”
Guillermo del Toro is a quality Director and Writer, who makes Crimson Peak into a period-piece drama with a bit of a ghost story in it.
Ironically, that's exactly what the main character, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is trying to write: a novel, with a bit of a ghost story within it. But it's turn-of-the-20th-century, and women novelists aren't in high demand. She's told to add a little romance. So, that's exactly what happens in the movie. Edith, though long courted by a local boy turned doctor, Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam), falls in love with a visiting English nobleman, Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). It seems the honorable Mr. Sharpe was attempting to woo Edith's father, the wealthy American industrialist Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), into investing in Mr. Sharpe's clay-mining invention. Mr. Cushing declines, but Miss Cushing was so charmed by Mr. Sharpe that she agrees to marry him, and returns to England with him to live in his palatial family castle, which actually is in a state of awful disrepair. It seems everything has been invested in the clay mines below the castle. It also seems that Mr. Sharpe's spinster sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), is part of this bargain, but Edith hasn't really warmed up to her yet.
The “spooky” aspects have actually already been introduced, as Edith finds that her deceased mother will occasionally visit her, usually to impart a message. “Beware of Crimson Peak” was not something she understood, until she discovered that the ruined castle where she's currently living has been called that by the locals, because of the red clay coming up from the ground. But Edith's ability to see the ghost of her mother also means that she's capable of communicating with other spirits from the netherworld, including some previous inhabitants of the castle, who are also trying to tell her something.
Yes, the supernatural element has a distinct purpose in the plot. As we suspected all along, Mr. Sharpe and his overly-attentive sister are indeed not who they presented themselves to be, but will our clairvoyant but naive Edith discover this in time?
All in all, there's much more to “Crimson Peak” than a simple horror story. More like a period piece with a zinger.