• Crimson Peak (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: January 14th, 2018.
    Director: Guillermo Del Toro
    Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Jim Beaver, Mia Wasikowska
    Year: 2015
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    Crimson Peak – Movie Review:

    Directed and co-written by Guillermo Del Toro, 2015's Crimson Peak tells the story of Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), the beautiful daughter of wealthy industrialist Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver). They live together in their massive family home in Buffalo, New York where Edith hopes to one day get her novel published. The ghosts in her book, she's keen on telling anyone who reads it, are a metaphor.

    Soon enough, Carter is approached by Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), an inventor from England who is hoping to secure funding for a machine he wants to use in his family's red clay mining operation back in his homeland. Thomas and Edith seem to fall for one another quite quickly but as Carter digs around in Thomas' past, he realizes that the man is broke and therefore not particularly suitable dating material for his daughter. He forces Thomas to break it off and both he and his sister, Lucille (Jessica Chastain), are quickly put in their place. Shortly after this happens, Carter is brutally murdered, his face smashed to pieces against the porcelain sink in the bathroom by an unseen assailant. With precious few alternatives, Edith marries Thomas and accompanies him and Lucille back to England to live with them in the massive rundown mansion built atop the family's red clay mine.

    As Edith adjusts to her bizarre new surroundings, it becomes clear that something is not right. She begins to see ghosts, similar to those she has written about, and the behavior of her new husband and sister-in-law starts to become unusual. Meanwhile, back in America, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam),who seems to have feelings for Edith, starts to put together the pieces of this strange puzzle.

    Far less the horror movie that Universal's deceptive marketing campaign made it out to be, Crimson Peak may deal with ghosts but it is most assuredly a gothic romance. That's not to say that the movie isn't rich with atmosphere and some surprisingly dark overtones or that it doesn't earn its R-rating with some strong violence, but if you go into this one looking for scares you'll probably walk away disappointed. Having addressed that, Del Toro's love of the horror genre comes through in a big way throughout the movie primarily in terms of the visual style employed in the film. The opening scene has a warmth to it (enhanced by some subtle sepia toned colors) that, once we move to the titular mansion owned by what's left of the Sharpe family, gives way to some impressive production values and set design. Both the interior and exterior work down around the Crimson Peak location is steeped in the tradition of gothic horror films like Castle Of Blood in that everything is draped in shadows and darkness and that many of the rooms in the home seem to hold dark secrets. The use of color throughout the film, red in particular (the clay seems to ooze out of the ground and drip through the crevices of the crumbling estate creating an immediate contrast to the white of the perpetual snowfall), is gorgeous if occasionally in a macabre sort of way. When you consider red to be both the color most associated with romance and the color most associated with murder the reason for the director's emphasis on this particular hue becomes clear. The period costumes are also impressive. The attention to detail evident throughout the movie is a big part of what makes the film as interesting as it is. This is a remarkably stylish picture.

    Also strong are the performances. Mia Wasikowska is a beautiful woman but so too is she a talented actress and as Edith, Del Toro gives her much to work with. Her character, influenced it would seem by Mary Shelly, goes through a pretty intense arc by the time that the movie is done with and she handles all aspects of this quite admirably. Jim Beaver is good as her father and Charlie Hunnam solid as the noble doctor. More memorable, however, are Hiddleston and Chastain as the Sharpe's. Though at first he seems charming and sweet, as the story shifts locations to England his troubles become more obvious and his sister's part in those troubles equally so. Hiddleston and Chastain do fine work here, both look appropriate to their characters but so too do they handle the range and emotional depth that the storyline calls for.

    As to the story itself (Del Toro co-wrote with Matthew Robbins, they're clearly channeling Poe at times), it moves slowly. Again, this isn't a traditional horror movie and it doesn't necessarily need to be, but your expectations should be in check when approaching a picture like this. It deals not in cheap thrills or gory murder set pieces but instead in atmosphere, tone and, yes, some fairly heavy handed dramatic romance. The ghost s in the film are not scary (though they are interesting to look at) and some of the romance is stilted and, in the tradition of gothic soaps, overdone and somewhat predictable. Things fall apart a bit at the end (Edith's intelligence was such a strong point in the first half of the movie and it seems to fade once she moves to England) and the contrivances of her romance with Thomas crumble quickly, but despite these flaws Crimson Peak is well made and, if you're in the right frame of mind for it, reasonably engaging stuff, particularly in regard to the visuals.

    Crimson Peak - Blu-ray Review:

    Crimson Peak arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow Video in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Shot digitally, obviously there isn't going to be any print damage, dirty, debris or grain to note. Detail is typically rock solid throughout, though some of the scenes that feature an abundance of digital effects do look a little flat when compared to those that do not. Black levels are reference quality and we get very strong shadow detail here (with only occasional scenes allowing the darkness to swallow things up a bit) while color reproduction, the reds in in particular, is beautiful. Skin tones look fine, never too hot or too cold in appearance, while the picture is free of any obvious compression artifacts.

    The main audio options on the disc are an English language DTS-X and an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track (which is how the movie was watched for the purposes of this review), and it really is an impressive one. Music swirls about the soundstage with tremendous power and heft without ever burying the dialogue. The sound effects that are used throughout the movie have superb directionality to them, perfectly enhancing the atmosphere of the film while demonstrating acutely balanced levels. There's nice range and depth to the voices of the cast, there's a very strong low end that provides the appropriate amount of rumble when the movie calls for it, and the attention to detail afforded the sound design in the movie really shines through here. Optional subtitles are provided in English. English 2.0 DTS Headphone:X Audio andOptional Descriptive Video Service® (DVS®) for the visually impaired options are also included on the disc.

    Extras start off with a commentary track from Guillermo del Toro himself, recorded for the original Universal Blu-ray release, where he's pretty blunt about his feelings on the way that the studio advertised the film. More importantly than that, he explains some of his influences here, talks about the contributions of the cast and crew, chats about the locations and special effects work that play such a huge part in the look of the movie and how he tried to incorporate different elements of different genres into the storyline. Del Toro's commentary tracks are always interesting and infectious in their enthusiasm and this one is no exception. It's interesting, insightful and a lot of fun to listen to.

    New to this Arrow release is The House is Alive: Constructing Crimson Peak, which is touted as ‘a newly edited, feature-length documentary with cast and crew interviews and extensive behind the scenes footage.’ And that’s not inaccurate. Here, over the case of fifty-minutes, we hear from Del Toro, Hiddleston, Wasikowska Chastain, Jim Beaver (sporting a very cool ‘M’shirt), Charlie Hunnam, art director Brandt Gordon, set dresser Shane Veiau, producer Thomas Tull, production designer Tom Sanders, producer Josh Jashni, producer Callum Greene and key scenic artist Cameron Brooke. It’s a nicely put together piece that covers a lot of ground – the pre-production that went into creating the sets, the design work, the writing and directing, the characters, what it was like on set, the gothic influences and quite a bit more. The behind the scenes footage is interesting and it shows off some of the more intricate and effects-intensive set pieces being filmed.

    Up next is a nine-minute ‘previously unseen’ Spanish language interview with Guillermo Del Toro (presented with English subtitles). It’s a bit on the promotional side and covers some of the same ground that is gone over in the commentary and The House Is Alive but he talks about the ghosts in the house, the influence of the Gothic Romance genre on the story, suspense and the building of fear, the costumes, the sets and quite a bit more.

    Kim Newman on Crimson Peak And The Tradition of Gothic Romance is a newly filmed eighteen-minute interview with the author and critic wherein he talks about how Del Toro is definitely a genre filmmaker but how it’s a bit tough to nail down exactly which genre it is that he works in. He then goes on to theorize about that, discussing the different genre elements that tend to work their way into the director’s films, the various influences he channels, some of the more unusual aspects of his films, literature that would seem to have played a part in shaping his style, how Crimson Peak has elements of the ‘old dark house’ style of filmmaking woven into it, the influence of Poe on his work and quite a bit more. As is the norm, Newman comes across as quirky, likeable and knowledgeable – it’s an interesting piece worth watching.

    Violence And Beauty In Guillermo Del Toro’s Gothic Fairy Tale Films is a new twenty-four-minute video essay by the writer Kat Ellinger that covers, as the title implies, the gothic influence on Del Toro’s work and how he pulls from that and from various European horror films to create something unique. She notes the traits that Crimson Peak shares with some of his other films and how the filmmaker’s ‘fairy tale signature’ is on such bold display in these works. She then goes on to state various influences and explain how and why they’re important to Del Toro’s specific type of filmic art. Ellinger narrates the piece over plenty of pertinent clips from the influences she states and clips from Del Toro’s work as well to make her case (which she goes quite effectively).

    Arrow has also carried over the featurettes that appeared on the original Blu-ray release that came out via Universal Studios in 2016, starting with the four part I Remember Crimson Peak. Here we get individual sections on The Gothic Corridor, The Scullery, The Red Clay Mines and The Limbo Fog Set and as you'd guess from the titles these explore the different sets and locations that play such a big part in the look and atmosphere of the movie. Running just under twenty minutes combined, these are interesting to see. Del Toro pops up again in the five and a half minute A Primer On Gothic Romance where, along with some help from a few cast members, he gives us a quick rundown on the genre that so clearly influenced him while making this particular feature. The eight minute The Light And Dark Of Crimson Peak gives us yet more information on the set design employed in the movie with a heavy emphasis on how different colors are used for different reasons throughout the picture while the nine minute Hand Tailored Gothic digs fairly deep into the costumes that were created for the film and how they accentuate different aspects of the story and the characters that inhabit it. A Living Thing gives us twelve minutes behind the scenes of the aging house that serves as the main set for the last half of the movie, while Beware Of Crimson Peak is an eight minute segment with actor Tom Hiddleston who serves as our tour guide for another look through the massive abode. The last featurette is the seven minute Crimson Phantoms and as the title suggest it's a look at how the ghostly creatures that appear in the film were created through a mix of different special effect techniques.

    Rounding out the extras are a handful of quick deleted scenes (The Park, Thomas' Presentation, Father Consoles Daughter, Thomas Sees A Ghost and Lucille At The Piano, none running more than a minute in length), menus and chapter selection.

    Arrow has also stated that this release will come with some fancy packaging and inserts but none of that material was provided for review, so we can’t comment on its worth.

    Crimson Peak - The Final Word:

    Crimson Peak isn't a perfect film but it is often times a very impressive one. The performances are strong and the visuals equally stunning, which makes it easy enough to overlook some of the shortcomings of the actual plot. As to the Blu-ray itself, the previous release from Universal was a very strong one, but devoted fans of the film may want to double dip on this Arrow reissue for the inclusion of the new extras.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Maureen Champ's Avatar
      Maureen Champ -
      Unfortunately, my expectations weren't be in check, and for me as a horror it's not scary, and as a romance it falls into mediocrity. Mario Bava's, my ass.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      There are a couple of cool moments of atmosphere, and some cringe-worthy violence, but it's not a favourite of mine.
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      I love this movie, it has great atmosphere and setting. It's my favorite Del Toro movie next to THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE and fits in nicely alongside his other more personal films like PAN'S LABYRINTH and SHAPE OF WATER. Not really a fan of his mainstream work like HELLBOY and PACIFIC RIM. He's better IMO when left to his own devices. I'm surprised this got a wide release, or was even made to begin with! This movie is slow and creaky, it's everything modern audiences have been taught to hate. The only thing it was missing was some proper nudity. Goddamn movies these days are so chaste. I think I'll give it a spin again tonight!