Crimson Peak takes too long to get the frightfest moving

MoviesBy Esther McCarthy
Crimson Peak takes too long to get the frightfest moving

AN UP-FOR-IT cast shines in this gothic and extravagant haunted house story.

But given this is the eagerly awaited new movie from filmmaker Guillermo del Toro –  the man who brought us the sublime Pan’s Labyrinth and the underrated Hellboy –there’s an emptiness to it that can only register as a disappointment. 

It’s a shame, because on the face of it, Crimson Peak has all the elements to make a great scary movie. Hot and talented cast – check. Monster-sized budget – check. Elaborate,  spooky sets – check. 

Part of the problem is that Del Toro spends so much bloody time setting out his stall, when the first frights arrive they’ll be waking you rather than frightening you. 

Set during the turn of the 19th-20th century, the story centres on a beautiful but naive young woman, Edith Cushing (Wasikowska), who – against the better judgement of her father, falls for the charms of a playful young Englishman. 

To be fair to her, he does take the form of Tom Hiddleston, and it’s not long before they’re living in marital bliss in his gothic, rundown family home in a remote part of England. 

There’s a snag – there seems to be ghostly, mysterious goings on in this eerie house, and that’s even before you get to meet her new sister-in-law, the creepy Lucille (Chastain, having a ball). 

The ‘Crimson Peak’ of the title refers to the topsoil of the region’s red earth that Hiddleston’s character is trying to mine.

There are very obvious arrows that fans of horror and fantasy movies will spot early on, yet Del Toro takes his sweet time in building what is an insubstantial story. 

The luscious sets, beautiful production design and camerawork help disguise this for a time, but Crimson Peak’s shortcomings quickly become apparent. 

It’s a stylish film but one that feels generic and has no real heart, and the frights don’t come either.

The movie improves greatly in the second hour when it builds to a gritty and over-the-top finale, but it falls short of ever really engaging.

Moreover, its efforts to pull in numerous elements – Gothic romance, murder mystery, horror – only serve to stymie the story. 

The verdict: 2/5.