Guillermo Del Toro's ‘Kinky’ Haunted House Movie Was Also His Most ‘Carefully Designed’

Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak wasn’t his most critically acclaimed effort in filmmaking. But according to a 2015 interview with The Los Angeles Times, it was his most carefully designed–and it was ‘kinky.’ Here’s what the movie director had to say. 

The filmmaker called ‘Crimson Peak’ ‘kinky’

The controversial, incest-themed ghost story is unique among Del Toro’s movies in a number of ways. It’s his only gothic romance film, for one. For another, Del Toro himself described it as ‘kinky.’ And while 2017’s The Shape Of Water flirted with unconventional sexual relationships, it didn’t go quite as far with it as Crimson Peak

“It’s really a movie that is traditionally gothic romance, but it has two or three violent moments that are very violent,” he told the LA Times. “And one or two little sexual things that are more overt than gothic romance normally is,” the director told the LA Times. When asked to clarify, Del Toro added, “Oh, it’s kinky. But it’s not necessarily explicit.” 

That much is true. While it’s constantly implied that something taboo is going on between the appropriately pale lead characters (Loki’s Tom Hiddleston as Thomas Sharpe, Jessica Chastain as his sister Lady Lucille Sharpe, and Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing), nothing overly graphic ever occurs onscreen between brother and sister. 

Edith marries Thomas, and he takes her to his drafty family mansion in the English countryside, which is both haunted and bad for Edith’s overall health. Thomas’ sister Lucille guards some pretty unsavory family secrets, and that’s the crux of the mystery Edith must uncover. The entire thing plays out against lavish backdrops painstakingly art-directed by Del Toro. 

Del Toro said it was ‘visually close’ to ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ 

The director told the LA Times that while the movie had ‘echoes’ of his atmospheric ghost-tale Devil’s Backbone, that’s not the movie he’d compare it to. “Visually it’s very close to Pan’s [Labyrinth],” he said. “I think Crimson [Peak] is the most carefully designed movie I’ve done. But it’s very different. It has fairy tale overtones in some instances, but is a gothic romance.” 

Color was very important, said Del Toro. And the cast’s elaborate wardrobe was meticulously planned to convey a message. “In Crimson Peak, we designed every color to be a part of the story,” he told the newspaper. “Every stitch in the wardrobe is deliberately planned. We imported lace that was created in the 1800s for real. Everything [within] the movie is telling you something.” 

Crews built two sets of furniture for the film 

Del Toro said crews built the furniture on the set of the three-story Crimson Peak haunted mansion in two sizes to emphasize the physical state of the characters. 

“We built the furniture in two sizes, so that when the character is weak, they would look smaller in a bigger piece of furniture,” he explained. “The same furniture [was made] smaller so the character looks stronger in another scene.” 

Perhaps most notably, the director paid particular attention to how he portrayed gender roles in the film. He was looking for a more complex dynamic than the typical gothic romance presents.  

“The gender in gothic romance 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.” 

So in every way, this kinky, elaborate, gory, detailed ghost movie turns out also to be one of Del Toro’s most unique. 

His fans are currently looking forward to the December release of the creepy carny movie Nightmare Alley to see how it compares. 

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