This month's major release from Guillermo del Toro - Pacific Rim - is an all-singing, all-dancing robots vs. monsters action movie with dimensional rifts, psychically-linked pilots and what looks like a massive amount of destruction. As fun as all of this sounds, it's understandable that del Toro would want to plan something very different and a little less bombastic for his next directorial outing. Thus, he is embarking on Crimson Peak: a ghost story set in England, which will see del Toro reinvigorate the horror directing talents with which he first made his name.
Del Toro has previously cited Robert Wise's The Haunting and Jack Clayton's The Innocents - the two indomitable legends of the haunted house horror genre - as being strong influences when piecing together the script for Crimson Peak (which he co-wrote with regular partner Matthew Robbins and new collaborator Lucinda Coxon), and has described Stanley Kubrick's The Shining as a "Mount Everest of the haunted house movies." There's no denying that with their vast and diverse spaces - from creepy corners to tiny closets, dusty attics to gloomy basements - haunted houses are a bottomless well of potential terror, which might be why the haunted house is a favorite genre subset for many a horror fan.
In a recent interview with STYD, del Toro makes it sound fairly clear that Crimson Peak will have a lot more in common with The Shining than with The Haunting or The Innocents, at least in terms of the content that's going to earn it an R rating. Though it will be an English-language production, Del Toro says that Crimson Peak will be in large part a return to his Spanish horror roots, which include films like The Devil's Backbone, Cronos and Pan's Labyrinth. del Toro warns that fans who have only ever seen his English-language films would do well to prepare themselves properly for the radical change in direction that he's taking with his new haunted house film:
"Crimson Peak is a much, much, much smaller movie, completely character-driven. It's an adult movie, an R-rated movie, pretty adult. Shockingly different from anything I've done in the English language. Normally, when I go to do a movie in America for the spectacle and younger audience, for Blade or whatever. This movie's tone is scary and it's the first time I get to do a movie more akin to what I do in the Spanish movies."
Don't allow the current description of Crimson Peak as a classic Gothic romance to lead to an underestimation of the adult content, because we're apparently in for a lot of blood and sex. Since there are few better ways to make gore and violence really stand out in a movie than to offset it against a radically different backdrop, del Toro promises to make the most of contrast:
"[Crimson Peak] has moments that are very visceral, physical violence. You're in this sort of sedate romance and then there is this brutal moment where you're like, "Whoa!" And it has a lot of kinky moments. The only kinky moment I've ever shot is the leg f**k in The Devil's Backbone. [laughs] This has a little more kinkiness than that."
The film is currently in pre-production with casting rounding out impressively. Benedict Cumberbatch will appear in what we assume will be a fairly major role, with Jessica Chastain signed on for another part and Mia Wasikowska rumored to be in the running for the lead role formerly occupied by Emma Stone. The film is set in Cumbria, a largely rural and mountainous region of northern England that shares a border with Scotland, and has plenty of potential locations for a lonely and isolated haunted house. Del Toro implies that they've already fixed a location for exteriors and are currently in the middle of building the set:
"The house is looking great. We started scouting two months ago and are deep into the design and it looks fabulous. Obviously, I'm going to buy a lot of the props."
It sounds like this small-scale but nonetheless grandly Gothic horror film will be about as far away from Pacific Rim as it's possible to get, but del Toro isn't leaving everything from his giant robot movie behind; Charlie Hunnam, who plays one half of the Jaeger control team in Pacific Rim, is attached to star in Crimson Peak. Like all the other actors who are currently tied to the film, the exact role he will be playing is still unknown.
Del Toro has touched on the subject of ghosts once before - in his haunted orphanage movie The Devil's Backbone. Although the ghosts may have provided some of the more chilling scares in that film, the true antagonists were human, and so it will be interesting to see where the violence comes from in Crimson Peak.
Do you prefer del Toro's Spanish classics, or his English-language films like Blade II and Hellboy?
Crimson Peak will begin filming in summer 2014, and is expected to release some time in 2015.