Let there be no question that director Guillermo Del Toro is a visual stylist second to none in today’s contemporary movie scene. With movies like his multi-Oscar winning Pan’s Labyrinth, to his enormously fun and big monster mash-up, Pacific Rim, this is the one horror helmer who doesn’t hold back or rely on cheap tricks like “found footage” to give us the scares.

As in his other films, deadline-review-badge-pete-hammondDel Toro is all in, sparing no expense to create the kind of gothic thrills in which the industry used to excel. As I say in my video review above, with the gorgeously appointed Crimson Peak he may have outdone himself in terms of lusciously stunning production design, art direction, costumes, cinematography, sweeping musical score and expert special effects. The film has the feel of a very old fashioned style of Hollywood moviemaking, and for those who want to succumb to the richness of what Del Toro serves up, you are in for a pre-Halloween treat with lots of neat cinematic tricks up its sleeve.

Mia Wasikowska plays an up-and-coming writer of gothic romantic drama in the story set in early 1900’s Buffalo where she lives among the upper crust with her wealthy widowed industrialist father (Jim Beaver), and puts off the advances of an old friend and now doctor played by Charlie Hunnam. Suddenly into this scene comes a young English businessman (Tom Hiddleston) and his sister (Jessica Chastain) seeking money for a mining machine he has devised. In no time though, this pair is under suspicion by dad who suddenly meets his maker in one of Del Toro’s most effective but truly violent murderous moments. Unfortunately his daughter didn’t get the message and falls head over heels for the Englishman, becomes his bride and moves into a delapidated old crumbling mansion (of course) where things go bump in the night and her new sister-in-law tries to constantly poison her.

This is pure haunted house delight with Del Toro’s color palettes running amok and a heightened sense of drama and foreboding that just keeps building. Chastain has said that to prepare for this film she had DVD copies of classic gothic movies like Rebecca and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? nearby at all times. The comparisions are apt. In fact it is Chastain, almost unrecognizable at first as a startling and villainous brunette carrying the family secrets, who steals this show acting-wise. Wasikowska is perfectly cast as the innocent virginal bride in for way more than she bargained for while Hiddleston and Hunnam also register. Jim Beaver as Wasikowska’s father is excellent. But Del Toro is the real star here along with his key technical partners who have come up with a sumptuous Halloween-month treat. Considering the cheap $1.98 movies passing for horror movies these days that is no trick.

Producers are Callum Green, Jon Jashni , Thomas Tull and Del Toro  for the Legendary Pictures production which Universal releases today.

Do you plan to see Crimson Peak? Let us know what you think.