Crimson Peak is very nice-looking, but there isn't much going on underneath.
Despite how gross it would be to live in such a mansion, it's beautiful to watch on-screen. Working with cinematographer Dan Laustsen, del Toro's shots of the house, its inhabitants, and its various rooms are gorgeous. The production design is incredible. It builds such a strong atmosphere that you remain tense even when you have little other reason to. Several shots are memorable. You may struggle to remember Edith's last name, or even that it's called "Allerdale Hall" - "Crimson Peak" is just a nickname, we learn - but you'll easily recall some of the images shown to you in this movie.
The plot, on the other hand, takes something of a backseat. The "romance" isn't very effective from the get-go, regardless of how true it may be. The characters aren't all that deep, with the worst offender being a doctor played by Charlie Hunnam, who is a Mary Sue character if ever there was one. It doesn't help that Hunnam turns in by far the worst performance of the four top-billed actors. There isn't a ton of horror; most of what we get are a few jump scares from the ghosts, as well as isolated - and somewhat surprising - incidents of bloody violence. It's never boring, but looking at it after it ends, it's easy to recognize that it's a pretty shallow movie. Crimson Peak is very nice-looking, but there isn't much going on underneath, outside of a heavy-handed metaphor involving the ghosts and the past.
I'm ultimately okay with it being shallow. Crimson Peak is a fun ride while it lasts, especially after it gets going. Its three leads are good - Jessica Chastain, in particular, is as fantastic as usual, here winding up more frightening than most of the ghosts - the camerawork and production design are top-notch, and it does get a few scares. If nothing else, it's a rare wide-release horror movie that is (A) good, (B) not found-footage, and (C) not made on a shoestring budget just to suck the money out of its genre's devoted but starved fans. If nothing else, it's worth supporting just so that a del Toro movie makes money. That may be the only way you will get your Pacific Rim 2.
Bottom Line: Crimson Peak is gorgeous, contains a great atmosphere, features three solid acting performances, and has a few brief instances of bloody violence. It's pretty fun.
Recommendation: See Crimson Peak not just because it's quite enjoyable, but also to support a filmmaker who needs it in order to continue doing projects that are worth seeing.
If you want more of Matthew "Marter" Parkinson, you can follow him on the Twitter @Martertweet and check out his weekly movie podcast.