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Inside the living, breathing, bleeding house of Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak

“A house as old as this one becomes, in time, a living thing.”

Tom Hiddleston’s words at the heart of the Crimson Peak trailer speak to the heart of the movie. That heart is called Allerdale Hall, a vast and isolated mansion, covered in snow, its scalp exposed to the elements, its bones rotting away. Guillermo del Toro describes the house as an animal that’s laid down and died — an apt comparison, given the deadly secrets within the structure.

“I have a house that bleeds and breathes,” he laughs, speaking with Digital Trends and other journalists on the set of the movie, inside the house. “It can be extreme.”

“I have a house that bleeds and breathes. It can be extreme.”

Extreme is definitely the word, as the trailer makes plainly clear. Del Toro’s first foray into gothic horror, Crimson Peak revolves around Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), an American writer who marries British charmer Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) and moves to his family estate of Allerdale. There, she uncovers a host of haunting secrets — from bloody fluid gushing from faucets, to horrible apparitions creeping through corridors, and beyond.

But it’s the house itself that provides much of the horror, to the point that even its stars were in awe of the massive structure, built inside of Pinewood Studios in Toronto.

When we speak with Hiddleston, he’s just finished shooting a scene with Wasikowska where he brought her character to the house for the first time. “I tell her how it’s difficult to stop the damp and erosion because the house is so old, and I step on a floorboard and a red ooze starts to seep across the thing. There’s even stuff beneath the floorboards!”

“The house is improvising,” says Hiddleston. “The house is giving a better performance than I am!”

What Hiddleston describes as improvisation is actually meticulous detail on del Toro’s part. “The house kind of bleeds; the floors bleed red, and the walls bleed red,” he says, and it’s a testament to the Sharpe family’s profession.

“This is a family of clay miners,” he says. “I liked the idea of them draining the blood of the Earth, you know? The rich family draining the land and leeching it out. It may not be subtle, but I like it.”

Del Toro has long wanted to make a haunted-house film, his obsession with all things gothic well known among his many friends, family, and fans. With that in mind, there was no world in which he would make Crimson Peak without creating a structure that’s also a fully formed character. In order to pull it off, del Toro and his team first designed a model house, intricately and specifically detailed with paintings, furnishings, furniture and more.

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The actual house itself, built on a Pinewood soundstage, is the spitting image of the model, massive in scale, awe-inspiring in its physicality. The structure contains a working elevator that travels from the kitchen through the top floor; it’s reliable, del Toro says, “as long as I don’t ride it.”

Del Toro takes us into the library. It’s on the far end of the house, visible through a grand corridor with even grander stairs. “Second to the corridor, this is the widest and largest room in the house,” he says. He stares up at a massive painting of a woman, crafted in 19th century style, featuring the matriarch of the Sharpe family.

“The house is giving a better performance than I am!”

“This is the guilty party of everything that happens,” he says with a big smile. “When you see my movies, you realize that the family I like is the family you make. The family that you were born with, I find it at the same time great and terrifying.”

Del Toro knows that this house and its family history are unsettling and creepy at best; but creepy is where he’s most at home.

“I love everything creepy, so I love the house. I love it,” he says, smiling big as he looks around, pointing out the authentic chandelier over his head — a chandelier that looks like it could drop and flatten you at any moment.

“I mean, I really, really would like to live here, but I’m twisted,” he laughs. “I showed my wife a brutal fucking scene and I go, ‘Isn’t it nice?’ And she said, ‘NICE?’ So, I’m different.”

He’s certainly different. Perhaps there’s a hint of madness inside of him, too. Madness is certainly written all over the walls of this house — literally, if you look close enough — and it’s etched on the hearts of the Sharpe family. More on them, and the other unfortunate souls unlucky enough to set foot inside Allerdale, coming soon.

Make sure to check out part 2 and part 3 of our Crimson Peak set visit coverage. 

Crimson Peak opens on October 16.