Can a ghost story be as ghastly when its ghosts don’t matter?

Crimson Peak, the new gothic thriller from acclaimed horror maestro Guillermo Del Toro opens in wide release Friday. Del Toro crafts a dutiful update to the legendary films from which Peak draws its inspiration, but ultimate leaves with too many loose ends to tie it together properly.

Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is young heiress in turn-of-the-century Buffalo, New York. She lives with her wealthy industrialist father and has designs on becoming an author, with her current manuscript being a ghost story.

Edith has a particular affinity for ghosts because shortly after her mother’s death when Edith was a child, her mother’s ghost visited Edith in her bedroom and warned her to “beware of Crimson Peak”. Despite the trauma of this experience, Edith has grown up mostly well-adjusted and seems content to disappear into her writing for years to come.

Her outlook begins to change when Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) a baronet from England arrives in Buffalo. Thomas is seeking financing from Edith’s father for his new mining machine so that the red clay that built his family’s fortune can be more easily mined and save his family from financial ruin.

Sharpe is quickly rebuffed, but sticks around as he’s struck up a romance with Edith. However, upon learning a secret about Thomas, Edith’s father insists that Thomas break his daughter’s heart and return to England, even bribing him to do so. His plan backfires when Edith and Thomas run to each other anyway. And, when Edith’s father is murdered, it’s in Thomas’ arms that she finds consolation.

Thomas soon marries Edith and whisks her away to Sharpe Hall, his massive home in England. We learn that Sharpe Hall is the Crimson Peak about which Edith was warned and when strange things start to happen, Edith realizes that her mother’s ghost’s warnings should have been heeded.

With Crimson Peak, Del Toro has created a throwback to the Victorian horror dramas of the 40s and 50s. Using modern effects and aesthetics, he’s seamlessly brought that motif into the modern age in a near lossless transition. If only it weren’t so dreadfully dull.

Peak moves at an odd. A tremendous amount of time is paid to what essentially amounts to the film’s backstory: A young girl in Buffalo, New York being courted by somebody who never appears sinister. Once the stage is set for the thrills and main draw of the film, the story’s already begun to wind down and what does come out is predictable and rushed.

Worst of all, the ghosts are a complete afterthought in the film. They show occasionally around the titular estate and provide a few quick frights, but ultimately they could be excised from the film entirely and not much would be missing from the final product. The ghosts basically serve as tiny hints at the main plot while the film moves forward as though they are nothing more but apparitions.

Crimson Peak is a grand beautiful piece of flawed storytelling. The imagery and design is top-notch, but the story ends up completely unsatisfying with too little paid off and what is paid off is predictable and ordinary.

Not what we’ve come to expect from Del Toro.