Guillermo del Toro’s new thriller Crimson Peak might be set in a crumbling English manor visited by ghosts, but the director would like to make one thing clear: it is not a haunted house movie. “It’s not that at all,” he says. “The house is a rotting representation of the family that has inhabited it — it’s like a cage, a killing jar that you use to kill butterflies. The house basically is a sinister, sinister trap.”
It’s a trap that ensnares budding novelist Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), who, after her marriage to the mysterious Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), finds herself living in the estate, where his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) also resides. “[Usually] the marriage is sort of the climax or the high point of a story,” the director says. “I tried on Crimson to say that the horror starts after the marriage. This girl wakes up in a strange place, not her own home, not her own bed, and she little by little realizes that she knows less about the man she married than one would expect. The curious thing is the love story really starts when they acknowledge that darkness.”
For the production, Del Toro, who co-wrote the screenplay with Matthew Robbins and Lucinda Coxon, constructed a decaying multilevel mansion — complete with a working elevator — on a Toronto soundstage, and no detail escaped his attention. Custom wallpaper created for an upstairs hallway, for example, had the word “fear” subtly woven into its design. “Normally when people address this period, they go for desaturated colors, steel gray, steel blue, or sepia,” he says. “They are trying to evoke old photographs or silver tinting. I didn’t want that. I wanted the movie to feel lush.”
Crimson Peak opens in theaters Oct. 16.