Though it might not touch the box-office might of films like Avengers: Age of Ultron or Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak remains one of our most-anticipated genre movies of 2015. It's got a fantastic cast led by Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska and Jessica Chastain, it's del Toro's return to his pure horror roots, and the first trailer's sexy, creepy, Gothic vibe had us levitating in the lush dread of it all. Plus, no less a horror luminary than Stephen King has already dubbed the film "gorgeous" and "f***ing terrifying." So, yeah, it's safe to say we can't wait for this flick.
Crimson Peak obviously has immediate appeal to genre fans simply because of its cast and its director, but there's something else lurking beneath the surface that could make it a very special film: Del Toro's personal approach to telling ghost stories. He doesn't think about them in the same way a great many horror filmmakers do, and that starts with refusing to hide his creatures from the audience.
"I always show you the monster," del Toro told IGN. "I always want things to be up front. I want to show you the faun, the kaiju, and the ghost in the Devil's Backbone. Because the scariest things in my stories, in my opinion, are the humans."
Del Toro acknowledges that his tendency to treat the humans as the scary things rather than the monsters or ghosts is "not very much in vogue," but for him the way to create a movie that really scares people isn't to build scares around ghosts that jump out and terrify you. For him, the way to do it right is to build up an interest in the characters, and once the audience cares about them, the atmosphere works around that.
"I go very counter to the culture of ghost stories. I just want the ghosts to be, and then make it a creepy movie, rather than one based on scares," Del Toro said. "Make it an atmospheric movie, which is creepy, yes, but the more you attend to the story the more you're hopefully invested in the human characters – good or evil – and the more the ghosts become a palpable threat.
"I think I did it in Devil's Backbone, which is still one of my favourite movies I've done, and I hope we've pulled off something similar here. It's a very different movie, but it's similar in certain ways."
So del Toro has already laid out his storytelling philosophy for Crimson Peak, well before we've seen it, and I have to say I like what I hear. I've never really been a huge fan of what I once heard Steven Spielberg refer to as "Jack-in-the-Box terror," meaning scares for the sake of making people jump. I much prefer horror films that build a sense of dread, a creepy vibe, then milk that for all it's worth when the time comes. It sounds very much like Crimson Peak will be that kind of film, and that gets me even more excited for it.
Crimson Peak hits theaters Oct. 16.