The Gothic genre is a particularly special one, as it encompasses mystery, thriller, horror, and romance. Writer-director Guillermo del Toro is no stranger to the genre, having dabbled in bits and pieces of it for his previous films Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone, and The Orphanage. His most recent release—Crimson Peak—is sure to be an instant Gothic masterpiece, bringing psychologically repressed characters, spooky supernatural situations, tortured and complex romance into an unsettling yet gorgeous atmosphere.
To help with your dark cravings after watching this film, we’ve put together a small (stressing the “small” here; one list can hardly contain all the Gothic glories out there) recommended list of films, books, games, and TV shows which represent the Gothic genre and overall ambiance of Crimson Peak itself.
The Gothic genre itself got its start in literature. During the 19th century, authors were either toying with or fully immersed in psychological darkness and sinister horror as serious themes for novels. Many of these Gothic-esque novels have been made into films, with various adaptations strung across the generations. Of course, we encourage everyone to read up on the original novels, but watching these film adaptations or playing these games can be equally as eerie.
Penny Dreadful is more than similar to Crimson Peak; they could be considered 21st century Gothic cousins. This television mash-up of classic characters alongside interesting original characters is the perfect starting point for newcomers. Going into its third season in 2016, not only is this cast elegant and commanding, but the production quality has proven to stay fairly true to the Victorian-era grit and glam. If you’ve been holding off on this series and loved Crimson Peak‘s vibe, grab the darkest blood red wine you can find and start binging now.
Novels (and Their Adaptations)
The three English mothers of the Gothic genre in literature are a pair of sisters and a bold young woman. Emily Brontë wrote her only novel, Wuthering Heights, during the mid-1800s. The recent adaptation in 2011 was directed by Andrea Arnold and featured The Maze Runner star Kaya Scodelario as a wild woman/ghost of the English moors, trapped in a tortured love affair. You can also catch the 1992 version on Netflix starring he-who-must-not-be-named, Ralph Fiennes.
Emily’s older sister, Charlotte Brontë, is most famous for writing Jane Eyre. The recent 2011 adaption starred Miss Edith Cushing herself, Mia Wasikowska, as a pale governess coupled with a brooding Michael Fassbender and, naturally, a creepy old house with a demented secret.
And with Mary Shelley’s timeless tale of science and horror, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, you’ll never go hungry for quality Gothic tales by Victorian females. Another similar novel by Susan Hill, The Woman in Black, has a more recent publication date—1983—but the same creepy Victorian-era setting, and the 2012 film adaptation with Daniel Radcliffe is worth viewing once.
The men of the 19th century were no strangers to the Gothic genre either. To name a few bloodcurdling works of literature, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dracula, The Turn of the Screw, and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are all popular choices for that Gothic experience in both literature and film. In some cases, such as Dracula Untold, Victor Frankenstein and Sleepy Hollow, the traditional story is revamped for the 21st century.
Other creepy tales of woe are only found in film, like The Brotherhood of the Wolf, a 2001 French film turned cult-classic featuring Vincent Cassel as a mysterious silver-bullet welding hunter. Classic dark horror films from the mid-1900s are also great source-material for Crimson Peak: Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) contains plenty of ghostly apparitions, Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (1961) is directly inspired by The Turn of the Screw, and Terence Fisher’s The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) is wickedly twisted.
And then there’s the exceptional graphic novel (turned questionable film in 2001), Alan Moore‘s From Hell. The original source material dipped readers into dangerous and desolate Victorian London, complete with Jack the Ripper. From Hell has the same sinister Gothic enchantment as Crimson Peak: all the characters are forced to observe the terrifying dualities of life and death.
Few games have been able to capture the perfect blend of Gothic mystery, thriller, horror, and romance in an interactive medium. Castlevania proves to be the essential beginning point for this rarity of Gothic-eque games. Various entries of this on-going series include the classic spooky castle, tormented vampires, and overall dark vibes.
More recently, however, the Dark Souls series and Bloodborne have successfully tipped their hats to the Victorian era. Oozing with more horror and gory than romance and mystery, these two series travel deep into the Gothic genre as death becomes the most common means of survival for many players. If you are into these two series, prepare yourself because they are expanding soon; Dark Souls III devours Xbox One, PS4, and PC in North America, Europe, and South America in April 2016 and Bloodborne’s DLC The Old Hunters creeps over to the PS4 November 24.
Which Gothic-esque films, books, games, and tv shows do you recommend for Crimson Peak fans? Add to the list with a comment!
Image credits: Universal/Legendary, Showtime, BBC Films, Hammer Film Productions, and Sony Computer Entertainment