Edith Cushing is a feisty lady and aspiring writer living with her father in upstate New York just after the turn of the century. However, the family's idyll comes to a brutal halt shortly after Edith crosses paths with and falls for Sir Thomas Sharpe, a British baronet seeking capital in the U.S. for some contraption he hopes will revolutionize red clay mining or some such. Sharpe travels with his sister, Lucille, who at first appears distant and cold. Time reveals Lucille's distance to be something subtly off--and slightly more sinister--with her character. Right from the get Edith's pa knows there's something not quite right with the Sharpe siblings, but he can't quite put his finger on what that is. [And really when all is said and done, I doubt he would have uncovered the true twisted nature of the Sharpe siblings' relationship because it's the stuff of nightmares.]
Immediately following his attempt at running off the Sharpes with some information dug up by some shady private investigator, papa Cushing bites the dust when his head is savagely bashed in as he performs his ablutions in the lavatory of his private club. And while his attacker's face remains shrouded black in shadow, we all know why Cushing was murdered due to its proximity to his attempt to extricate his daughter from Thomas Sharpe's clutches. Unfortunately pa Cushing has underestimated the Sharpes' cunning because Thomas is conveniently re-connecting with Edith when her father's attorney tracks her down to inform her of her father's brutal death. Following the funeral, Edith marries Thomas, and he takes her home to his isolated, rural, decaying manor house, Allerdale. And Alan, a longtime family friend, is left to take up the mantle of the late pa Cushing's suspicions regarding the Sharpe siblings.
The longer Edith's sojourn at Allerdale lasts, the more it becomes clear that something is deadly off with both Sharpe siblings and the house. What secrets does this house hide? What horrors have its walls witnessed? What message does its ghosts have for Edith? Will Edith discover its secrets before it claims her as its next victim? Though the apparitions haunting this house are scary in physical appearance, it's quite clear their main purpose is to impart a message or a warning to Edith rather than cause her harm. This movie's true predator is all too human.
Some thoughts I had:
For someone who presents herself as an astute observer of her fellow contemporaries, Edith sure is snowed by Thomas's charms. Maybe this is the writer in her--she observes details of her contemporaries' appearance rather than accurately reading body language, manners, and subtexts.
In response to a longtime family friend's mother's intimation that Edith will die 'like Jane Austen--as a spinster,' Edith retorts that she'd rather 'die like Mary Shelley--as a widow' and walks off. It's this fire that is Edith's saving grace when the manure hits the fan at Allerdale.
Allerdale house is so dilapidated that there is a constant shower of dusty detritus (and snow in winter) raining down from the massive hole in the roof and upper floors at the center of the house. So I ask what kind of woman walks into a marital home such as this and stays rather than being all, NOPE. NO, THANK YOU, and getting the hell out of dodge? Because Edith Cushing Sharpe is the kind of woman who stays.
Lucille Sharpe is one twisted sister, and she is definitely the dominant sibling.
Following the reveal of the siblings' incestuous relationship, all their morbid misdeeds, and the fact that both Edith's and Alan's lives are in very real danger, Lucille burns the manuscript of Edith's book right in front of Edith. Is it wrong that the thing that most disturbs me is the burning of the manuscript? This is 1901, people, once that manuscript's ashes, it's gone for good! There's no computer back up!
--Reviewed by Ms. Angie