Tangled with twisting shadows of dark Gothic pleasures, this movie is a realm of nightmarish yet unshakable visual flair. It peters away from time to time as a story flimsily tries to push through and doesn’t quite manage but it’s a engaging and spine-tingling watch to prove del Toro’s knack for this type of story-telling.
Writer Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) falls in love with a mysterious English stranger who wants to mine the red clay of Allerdale Hall. Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) brings Edith back to England with him and there she encounters a characteristic house, ghosts and the fearsome watch of Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain). Whilst in her new home Edith begins to uncover the mysteries of who the Sharpes truly are.
Guillermo del Toro is back on form with his supreme hold on ghostly goings on, the world of the film is dark and extremely interesting, that messed up fairy-tale feeling so effortlessly shown in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ shows itself again here. It’s like no other ghost story, sure there’s spirits and bloody ones at that but del Toro focuses well on the visually stunning exploration of love and messed up relationships.
The writing for this film is interesting, simultaneously fun and beautiful but regrettably weak also. Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins are the script masters and conjure up absolutely fantasticical imagery, the siblings mystery is good and the general air of Gothic romance comes across well but my problem was that it seemed to penetrate more on the wonderful shots than the deeper roots of the plot. It will be s movie that stands up for some time due to the scenery and inspiring ideas but sadly I wasn’t hugely enthralled by the narrative portrayed.
Dan Laustsen captures gorgeous and fearsome cinematography, the house is just one aspect of what is seen in great scale. The broad sweeps of the red surroundings through the snow is unforgettable. Even the ballroom waltz is seen with grandeur and glamourous detail. Go see the film alone for the captivating imagery from start to end.
Along with the look, Fernando Velazquez accompanies the feature with a suitably creepy score. Whenever the spindly scary ghosts emerge the music steps into that expected yet needed horror vibe. It trickles with a more satisfying layer of intrigue and foreboding tension which I liked s lot, even more so coming out of the IMAX speakers which help immerse you into the ghost house.
Mia Wasikowska leads us through the story well, the emotive smart young Edith is ripe for her talents and even in some more dumb moments we want to see her do well. Jessica Chastain is the tormented soul of the film, her black hair and piercing looks do great work to showcase the obsessive dark world Lucille is used to and enjoys. Tom Hiddleston is the charmer with elements of tragedy and sinister edges, like a soppier Loki he’s interesting enough for the main male role but didn’t stand out in terms of character development. Jim Beaver does fine work in the protective father category, the gruff nature of his offish stance to Thomas’ presence is ever present.
With the visual effects team and location spectacle, this ghost tale is a magnificent watch. It doesn’t grab as much as I’d liked it to have done but I’d recommend it and see it again for the pure visual inventive of del Toro’s mind.