Guillermo del Toro on the Haunted House & Ghosts in 'Crimson Peak'
by Ethan Anderton
July 17, 2014
Next week at Comic-Con, we'll have a much better idea of what to expect from Guillermo del Toro's next horror film Crimson Peak. But until then, some interviews with the director from the set of the film have surfaced where he talks about the haunted house at the center of the story and how they're bringing some of the ghosts inside the house to life by doing more practical effects. The film stars Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Hunnam, and some of the plot and details on their characters have been revealed. Find out more about the film and the terror that del Toro has in store below.
Here's the plot synopsis for del Toro's Crimson Peak:
The film stars Mia Wasikowska as Edith, a young woman who crosses paths with two siblings from England, Lady Lucille Sharpe and Sir Thomas Sharpe (Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston). Charlie Hunnam’s Dr. Alan McMichael has had his eye on Edith for quite some time, so when Edith heads out of town with Thomas, he’s not too happy about it. However, Dr. McMichael’s broken heart is the least of Edith’s worries because soon after arriving at the Sharpe’s house, she comes to realize something’s not quite right with the place.
Speaking with Shock Til You Drop, del Toro spoke about the haunted house at the center of the story, and how they wanted to make it like a living organism, but subtly. Here's what he had to say:
”The house will oppress the characters more and more throughout the movie. What it is is the house becomes more and more alive. I’m very careful when I introduce the house to introduce it as a single space, but the more we stay in the house, the more I encroach the characters and the architecture.
That is a progression in the house, the way the house starts breathing or sounding, with Randy Thom, our sound designer, and the way the house sounds is more and more human as the movie progresses.”
But the house isn't necessarily alive like Monster House or anything like that. The filmmaker elaborates:
“What we said is, we need to have the house feel a little bit like an organism. There was a line that I already cut in the editing room where it says it lays down like an animal and it goes slowly mad. The house in the screenplay and in the movie has certain features that make it seem [like] a living organism, and so it’s decaying. It’s sitting in the middle of a field, rotting. So we knew that the top needed to be sort of the most weathered part of the house. The bottom and the areas where you would receive visitors or live are slightly more kept.”
What's truly cool, and a treat for del Toro, is that he gets to keep the haunted house set when the film is done. Sometimes studios get stingy about his practical sets and props, and he explains how he gets his way and keeps the goodies:
“I pay 50% of the prop and then I keep it. When a prop is, how do you say, controversial with the studio, if it’s too expensive, I go, ‘I’ll pay half, and then I’ll keep it.’ And that’s how the house was built, on splurge because, in reality, when they auction them, they auction them for very little … I’m keeping the portrait, probably the balcony. [Laughs] I’m still trying to resist. The crest, the automaton, the model of the machine of Thomas, there’s a steam engine, a couple of pieces of furniture and four books that I found. I found four books in the library that I like.”
We don't know a lot about what he's talking about yet since we haven't seen photos from the set, but that's a pretty sweet deal for a big film nerd like del Toro. But that's not all he had to offer about the hauntings happening in Crimson Peak. There's also ghosts, but don't expect them to be visual effects creations. After all, this is del Toro we're talking about, and the ghosts appearing in the film were all on-camera. Speaking with AICN, del Toro talk about his spirits:
"We want the ghosts to be on camera. That was one of the things I really wanted to do. There is the ghost that is a processed ghost, it is translucent and it can be really, really spooky. For example, one that haunted me as a kid was the Librarian in 'Ghostbusters.' Then there is the non-translucent ghost, the solid ghost, like in Jack Clayton's The Innocents. They are physically there. That's really creepy for me.
[For 'Crimson Peak'] I wanted them to be there, to be physical entities, so we went with makeup effects with a little bit of digital enhancement. I like them being there, giving the actors something to react to."
To clarify, that means the ghosts aren't transparent. There are no see-through ghosts in the film. Del Toro confirms, "None at all. I really felt it was a better way to go. It also ties to the story, to what the movie talks about, the origin of the ghost. They're very different from other ghosts. Hopefully people will agree." Knowing what del Toro pulled off with those kind of ghosts in The Devil's Backbone, arguably his best film, he doesn't have to convince us. Stay tuned to find out more about Crimson Peak from Comic-Con next week. Universal releases the film in theaters October 16th, 2015. Sound good?