For as long as I can remember, I’ve been someone who simultaneously loves and hates being scared, especially when it comes to hauntings and other paranormal happenings. As a teenager, I remember driving around to a few local hot spots with my friends, both hoping and dreading that something spooky would happen. I regularly use any Friday the 13th as an excuse to watch scary movies, and the Mysterious Mr. C and I even decided to get married on Halloween – at a legitimately haunted house no less!
Though I used to indulge in these kinds of fanciful pursuits only occasionally, I’ve taken my interest in the unexplained up a notch or two in the last few months. The new season of Ghost Adventures, which the Mysterious Mr. C got me into shortly after we moved in together, recently premiered on the Travel Channel, and I’ve been having a lot of fun listening to podcasts like Bizarre States and Lore. I was even looking forward to seeing Pride and Prejudice and Zombies this weekend because I was in need a scary story fix, but when it became clear that C and I weren’t going to make it to the theater for PPZ, I decided to watch Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak instead.
While Crimson Peak was something that I wanted to see on the big screen, it came out two weeks before our wedding, so that definitely didn’t happen! Luckily for me, it’s now available on demand and DVD, which means I was able to enjoy it in a darkened apartment from the comfort of my own couch!
The film, as Slate’s Dana Stevens points out, is a gothic romance in every sense of the word. Yet while it has all of the trappings of that particular genre, del Toro isn’t afraid to turn them on their heads either.
Take Edith Cushing, the main protagonist, played here by Mia Wasikowska. Similar to Catherine Morland in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (the only Austen book I’ve actually read), Edith is more interested in ghost stories than romance novels, though she is more inclined to write them than read them. The daughter of an American businessman, Edith is certainly aware of 19th century social mores, but she isn’t afraid to ignore them either, especially not when a handsome British baronet named Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) is involved. And when things with that beguiling royal and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) begin to go awry, Edith is the one who starts to put two-and-two together and ultimately saves herself from the horrors that hide within the walls of Allerdale Hall, more commonly known as Crimson Peak.
Having read a few reviews of the film that came out last fall, it seems like Crimson Peak was a bit polarizing – people either loved it or hated it. I definitely fall into the former category, though I do understand some of the complaints people had. I will readily admit that I saw many of the plot twists coming, but that didn’t really diminish the shock when they were finally confirmed on screen. And while some people thought the violence was a bit too gruesome and the ghosts were more hokey than scary, I thought del Toro did a great job of scaring you without being too over the top. In a way, it made me think of the first Saw movie, which relied more on letting your imagination run wild than over-the-top gore. And that was ultimately the fun of Crimson Peak. Like Slate’s Stevens says, “For the two hours it lasted I wasn’t asking any questions, only giggling, squirming, screaming, and swooning.”