'Crimson Peak': Will the upcoming movie be scary enough for audiences?

Some critics are complaining that the spooky movie 'Crimson Peak' isn't all that frightening. But the movie's Gothic romance storyline means it may take its scares from a different source.

Kerry Hayes/Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures/AP
'Crimson Peak' stars Tom Hiddleston.

The upcoming film “Crimson Peak” arrives on Oct. 16, only a couple of weeks before Halloween, and is set in a spooky house that seems to have a lot of secrets. 

So does it matter that some critics are saying they weren’t frightened by the film?

So far, many reviewers have praised the look of the movie, which stars actress Mia Wasikowska as author Edith Cushing and Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain as Edith’s new husband and sister-in-law, respectively. But while previews have eerie music and depictions of spooky creatures, Entertainment Weekly writer Chris Nashawaty says the film “forgets to be scary,” Variety writer Peter Debruge says there are “vacancies where the scares should be,” and Guardian writer Peter Bradshaw wrote that he is “less convinced by [director Guillermo Del Toro's] Halloweeny ghosts” than by other aspects of the film. 

What do the lack of over-the-top scares mean for the status of “Crimson Peak” as a Gothic romance? The standards of the genre, to which works like Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca” and Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” also belong, are seen in “Crimson.” The set-up of a young woman being newly married and being brought to a spooky house by a husband who seems to have secrets is “exactly in line with the Gothic framework,” says Dinah Ryan, who teaches a course on the Gothic novel at Principia College in Elsah, Ill. 

Would another Gothic romance have big scares? Ryan says the lack of them in “Crimson” makes sense for the genre. “The Gothic has the supernatural in it often,” she says. “But the Gothic isn’t really frightening in the sense that a ghost story is frightening… it’s more of a psychological haunting.” 

But how will the reported lack of scares affect moviegoers’ opinion of the movie or its appeal for casual viewers? Ryan says that many of her students are familiar with the trappings of the genre even if they don’t think they know it well, just because the conventions have been featured so often in pop culture. She says she hasn’t seen the movie but that because the Gothic genre can seem over-the-top to some, “people may not respond to that” with “Crimson,” she says.

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