Mia Wasikowska’s vulnerable turn-of the-20th-century American heiress falls into the clutches of two fortune-hunting English siblings.
This deliciously ripe slice of Gothic melodrama from fantasy maestro Guillermo del Toro sees Wasikowska’s Edith Cushing (note the iconic surname) meeting penniless baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) and his scarily possessive, predatory sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain).
Travelling with the Sharpes from Buffalo, New York, to their crumbling ancestral pile in England’s Lake District, Edith has little idea of the rough ride that’s in store for her.
The dark and twisted romance that unfolds contains more psychological chills than jump-in-the-dark scares and del Toro’s leads are perfect. Wasikowska treads a delicate balance between susceptible victim and gutsy heroine, Chastain is compellingly sinister and Hiddleston manages to evoke sympathy for his scheming villain.
But the movie’s real star is the decaying mansion. A triumph of set design, this House of Usher-like edifice stands on a mound of red clay (hence the title) and seems to breathe and bleed, a chilling living presence in its own right.