After a couple minor missteps Del Toro is back with more exquisite terror, although this is less a horror movie than a macabre romance with a bunch of ghosts in it…
Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is a young female writer in a century (the 1800s) that prefers its authors male. She is both flattered and flustered by the arrival of handsome and debonair inventor Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), though her wealthy father is not, both because of his intent to push a flawed product upon him, and because of his obvious intentions toward his only daughter.
When Mr Cushing dies violently, Edith has no-one and nowhere, and gladly accepts Sharpe’s proposal of marriage. She accompanies him to his large – but decidedly run down – family estate, where they, and Thomas’s sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) will live. What could be an awkward arrangement is made more comfortable by the amount of space in the home, though there are areas where she is warned not to go, and a rickety lift that is dangerous below ground level.
The dialogue through the film is clipped and proper, the costuming luxurious and elaborate and the sets intricate and beautiful. This is true of all Del Toro films, such is his attention to detail and realism. I should also point out that there are ghosts aplenty, some accompanied by creaks and groans, and some far more confronting. Again this is (I guess) a horror film, but the ghosts are less spooks than they are a supporting cast. This was the case with the smaller but even more effective The Devil’s Backbone.
With a small but well chosen cast the acting is of course excellent and the ultimate reveal more effective than most horror films. This is Del Toro’s best film since Pan’s Labyrinth and proves that – Blade 2 aside – while he obviously loves fantasy action equally, it is the world of gothic horror that will forever be his primary muse.
Final Rating – 7 / 10. The most beautiful two hours of being scared from 2015.