Don't freak out, but Guillero Del Toro's career is shaping up to be a better version of Tim Burton's. Burton's long, sad slump mirrors the declining angle you can trace from Cronos and Pan's Labyrinth to good-but-not-great fare like Pacific Rim and, yes, Crimson Peak. The difference is that Del Toro's stuff, even if no longer top shelf, is still worth watching. And he has never made me violently angry by remaking Planet of the Apes.
It's the turn of the century and there's a character named Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), and in her name we get forebodings of the film to come—Edith (American, like Wharton or Bunker) and Cushing (British as hell, like Peter). She's a budding author who doesn't cotton to including girly romance plots in her fiction, but she falls for a visiting baronet (Tom Hiddleston) who is trying to gin up financial investors with his sister (Jessica Chastain, queen of acting) in tow. Eventualities occur and Edith migrates to England, land of grey skies and angry ghosts.
This movie would be mad at me for using the "ghost-stories" tag, because even the dialogue makes clear that, just because a story has a ghost in it, that doesn't mean it's a Ghost Story. I've heard that some viewers have walked away disappointed that this doesn't have more horror content. We get blood, we get ghosts, but most of this is indeed akin to a Bronte novel, more focused on a slow unfolding of relationships than jump scares. You could draw comparisons in the set design to some of Argento's art deco stuff, but otherwise it's hard to fit this into a horror-shaped box.
It is pretty literary in that it has elements of Henry James, Poe, and others. The script has been carefully constructed with its dropped hints of butterflies and Arthur Conan Doyle. And yet somehow this doesn't end up as fulfilling as you might expect. Visually, it's beautiful and the acting is impeccable, but the plotting runs a little on the shallow side. I don't regret seeing it, but I'm not too motivated to catch it again.
Pretty, good, but not pretty good.