If you're anything like me, the last era you'd ever want to time travel to once science gets itself together is the turn of the 20th century. My bias against this period is solely based on the chilling tone of movies like Crimson Peak . (And also on the fact that the only career options that seemed to be available to women at this time were 1. marry rich; 2. haunted governess; or 3. drain on family resources.) But there's something about the late 1800s and early 1900s that makes those decades the perfect setting for ghost stories, on screen, in print, and even on stage. The new Guillermo del Toro Gothic chiller Crimson Peak takes place when the Victorian era is coming to an end, and it stars Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain as the remnants of a monied family, with Mia Wasikowska as the young author who marries into their home. Cue bumps in the night; ghostly visions; and icy spinsters.
The visionary director told the Wall Street Journal that he was inspired during the development of this movie by the kinds of Gothic novels that every Liberal Arts major has to read at some point in their academic career, like Jane Eyre and Rebecca. “[Crimson Peak] has a little more sexuality, a little more violence, and different gender politics," he said. So del Toro's take on gothic romance and horror starts with the genre as everyone knows it, but attempts to turn some of those conventions on their ear to meet the expectations of a modern audience.
To prepare for all the tasty Victorian horror that Crimson Peak is about to throw at me, I put together this list of six hints that you're watching a Gothic thriller.
1. The Lighting Levels Range From "Dusk" To "I Literally Can't See Any Of The Actors"
Stray lightning strikes are the only chance you've got to read a facial expression.
2. "We've Prepared Your Guest Room By Decorating It With All The Toys That Belonged To Our Dead Children"
Lonely bassinets; discarded dolls; ghostly nightgowns....it's super casual, don't even worry about it.
Nothing good can come of having mirrors around every corner in any rambling, haunted mansion. Firstly, because they usually house spirits that want your immortal soul. Secondly, because it's too dark to check your lipstick in one anyway.
4. You Don't Know That Man You Married, Trust Me
Victorian horror stock character: the handsome stranger who sweeps you off your feet, whisks you away to the house he inherited from his dead parents; and immediately starts acting distant and weird as soon as you get there. Get some references next time.
5. No One Has Ever Owned Any Comfortable Clothing In Their Lives
That's why they're all so brooding and humorless. And homicidal.
6. The Closest Neighbor Is In Another Time Zone
No one to hold your set of spare keys or hear your screams of terror as the souls of everyone who died in that house drag you into another realm.
Crimson Peak is going to be next-level Victorian creepy, and while I'd never want to live in the ornate rooms of its sprawling mansion, I sure wouldn't mind a visit.
Images: Universal Pictures; Giphy (6)