The Precious Snowflake Guide to Crimson Peak

Allerdale Hall
Allerdale Hall, nightmare of building code inspectors worldwide.

Tom Hiddleston likes to make my life difficult, it seems. I mean, I’m not a huge fan of horror movies, but here he goes, making a horror movie directed by Guillermo del Toro. It’s like he wants me to have nightmares, because obviously I have to see it. If you’re in the same boat, but also hate horror movies, read on. Maybe knowing what’s coming will make the experience more fun?

But in all seriousness, CRIMSON PEAK is not that scary. It’s a stunningly beautiful film, full of delightfully gothic-gory details (the walls are bleeding, but it’s ok, it’s just clay… right?), and really comes alive in the IMAX version I saw (seriously, go see it in IMAX). And Thomas Sharpe is the kind of character Hiddleston excels at: a Victorian Loki, charming and seemingly sweet, with dark secrets and an essentially good heart. Totally worth the scary movie.

In a mostly spoiler-free summary, the horror is basic: things go quiet before a loud scary noise, so it’s easy to tell when you’re about to flinch. If you’re me, you still flinch, because loud scary noise, but the sound design prepares you for most of the jumpy moments. And most of the truly gory moments are brief, and don’t dwell on the gore. Overall, it’s less gory that, say, UNDERWORLD, and with a much better plot.


Do you need a rundown of the actual scary and gory moments? Keep reading. Though spoilers, obviously.

  • Edith sees ghosts, as the trailer probably told you. The story begins with her mother’s funeral, and the subsequent ghost visitation. Mommy Ghost is basically a black skeleton with shadowy clothing – obviously CGI, beautifully created, but the scariest part is her voice. Correction: most of the ghosts are practical special effects. In which case, good grief, those are awesome.
  • Edith’s father is killed in his second appearance in a bathrobe – by having his head smashed on a ceramic sink. Blood, crunchy noises, and a brief shot of a hole in his skull. Poor Jim Beaver.
  • A lot of the ghost appearances at Allerdale Hall are preceded by the customary “horror movie quiet,” so it’s easy to tell when one will show up. Only one or two of these scenes are jumpy – the movie does a great job moving from the startling moments of the first half into more psychological, slightly bloody horror in the second half.
  • The ghost themselves, aside from Edith’s mother and one of the main characters at the end, are these weird red skeleton things with smoky red tendrils. They’re vaguely gruesome, but very obviously fake, not semi-realistic as, say, zombies in THE WALKING DEAD. If you’ve ever seen VAMPIRE HUNTER D, these ghosts are the “real-life” versions of Carmilla once she stops pretending to be pretty.
  • People get stabbed, especially at the end of the movie – Charlie Hunnam in particular gushes blood quite dramatically. No worse than any crime TV show though. Except for maybe poor Tom Hiddleston, who gets a knife shoved into his perfect cheekbone. That was sad. But not gory :-P

That’s about it, really. Yes, it’s a horror movie, but it’s also a gothic romance, with real characters in it, which tempers the horror to pretty tolerable levels. If you’re worried, but still want to see it, I’d say go during the day, and maybe don’t see it in IMAX. Though if you’re feeling brave, IMAX seriously is the way to go. Apparently del Toro built an actual three-story Allerdale Hall, and it’s just stunningly beautiful. Totally worth the couple of closer looks at skeletons drifting in red goo (it’s totally clay, we swear).

Recommendation: totally recommended. So, so pretty.

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