'Crimson Peak': Will audiences respond to this new take on Gothic romance?

'Crimson' director Guillermo Del Toro cites Gothic romances and the Hammer films as inspiration for his new movie. The film centers on Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), a young author who marries and moves to a decrepit house that seems to have some secrets.

Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures/AP
'Crimson Peak' stars Mia Wasikowska.

The movie “Crimson Peak,” the latest by director Guillermo Del Toro, is a new project, but film and literature fans may recognize the influences in the story. 

“Crimson” centers on Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), an aspiring author who marries Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and goes to live with him and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) in a decrepit house. Edith soon discovers that the house is full of secrets. 

Del Toro said of the film in a recent interview, “It has fairy tale overtones in some instances, but is a gothic romance.” The genre includes such literary works as Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” “Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen (which also poked fun at the genre), “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier, and the works of Mary Stewart, among many others.

However, Del Toro said he wanted to flip some of the supposed conventions of the genre on their head. “It’s normally a desperate heroine that has to be pure with a dark, brooding man that ends up being innocent of the charges he was accused of,” he said. “And I wanted to have a more proactive, really strong central female character. And I wanted a guy who was not necessarily innocent of the things he is thought of having done.”

The director also cited the Hammer films, which were produced in Britain and star such actors as Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing (yes, like Edith), as inspiration. 

Will making a film referencing these previous works of fiction succeed with audiences? Del Toro himself may be a draw for those who aren’t familiar with the genres he’s working from. The director won critical acclaim for his 2006 film “Pan’s Labyrinth” and some enjoyed his “Hellboy” films, which were based on the comic book character of the same name.

However, Del Toro’s 2013 movie “Pacific Rim,” which was his take on the kaiju films of Japan like “Godzilla,” was considered a box office disappointment. There's no guarantee that large audiences will turn out just to see Del Toro's version of a genre movie.

But the release of “Crimson” is timed to coincide with Halloween, so audiences looking for a spooky story could be interested. “Goosebumps” is also opening this week but would most likely attract a younger audience, and Steven Spielberg’s historical drama “Bridge of Spies” is obviously a very different movie. Perhaps even audience members who aren’t familiar with the Gothic romance genre will be attracted by the romantic aspects of the story or the scares promised in the previews.

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