Crimson Peak unveils its frightening beauty on Blu-ray, but it’s not enough to make this film memorable.
The Production: 2.5/5
Crimson Peak finds Guillermo del Toro working through another beloved genre and giving it his own lovingly crafted spin. After the Kaiju theatrics of Pacific Rim, del Toro has ventured into the world of Gothic Romance, finding lovely visuals and a beautifully creepy design aesthetic. What’s missing, sadly, is a compelling story. The simple story finds young New York writer and devoted daughter Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) seduced by an elegant English Baronet, Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). As per the etiquette of Gothic Romance, she’s swept off her feet, and before the viewer knows what’s happened, we’re transported from New York to the Sharpe’s decaying English mansion, Allerdale Hall, a somewhat haunted estate that is literally sinking into the red clay ground that surrounds it. Ghosts and scares surround the story, but the emphasis is really on Edith’s awakening to the creepy danger around her rather than just on the horror effects. And that’s really the long and short of the story, without getting into spoilers. This is definitely a story that’s in del Toro’s wheelhouse, as he takes his time doling out all kinds of creepy moments with ghosts or indulging in period details around New York or the estate. The cast is certainly game for the adventure with Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain finding an interesting level of creepiness throughout. But it all never really gels. There are some very creepy moments along the way, but nothing that really jars the soul, so to speak. If anything, the movie seems to putter along on a general feeling of unease, but never develops into anything more than that.
At the same time, the production is itself sumptuous. Working with a fairly generous budget (given that there are no major stars here), Guillermo del Toro has created one of the most memorable on-screen haunted mansions I’ve ever seen. Between the visibly decaying/rotting materials and the constant sound of the wind and the elements through the house, Allerdale Hall is practically a character in its own right. In terms of picture and sound, the movie is spectacular. In terms of the various creature effects and the production design, the movie is top notch. But when it comes down to the more basic storytelling issues, the movie just doesn’t have much to say or do. One wishes that del Toro could have found a more interesting story upon which to hang all this lovely design. This is actually a lovely Blu-ray to watch and hear, but it’s difficult to recommend it without more meat on the bones.
Crimson Peak was released to home theater viewers on February 9th. The packaging includes Blu-ray and SD DVD editions of the movie with the Blu-ray containing the lion’s share of the extra features and of course the reference quality picture and sound. Instructions for downloading a digital copy of each movie are included on an insert in the packaging.
3D Rating: NA
Crimson Peak is presented in a 1.85:1 1080p AVC transfer (avg 34 mbps) that is truly a marvel to watch. Just in technical terms, this is a beautifully crafted movie, and the transfer here shows off an amazing depth of detail and color. The reds of this movie are lovingly and deeply rendered. There is a lovely range of environments and lighting conditions on display here, including the golden hues of New York and the extremely dark interiors of Allerdale Hall. The various uses of CGI to enhance makeup on set are fairly seamless. All the way around, this is a masterful transfer, and one of the very few to which I have awarded a full 5 stars.
Crimson Peak is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix (avg 4.2 mbps, going up to 8.5 mbps for the big scares). Like the picture quality, the sound quality on this disc is top notch. There is a wide range between quiet dialogue scenes and moments where the score and the subwoofer come to life. Allerdale Hall is a large, echoing space filled with atmosphere, creaks and many lovingly ghoulish sound details. The 7.1 mix happily will fill your home theater with as many of those sounds as you can handle. A second English mix is presented as well, this one designed in 2.0 for viewers using headphones (@ 334 kbps). There are also DTS 5.1 mixes available in Spanish and French and an English DVS 2.0 track.
Special Features: 3.5/5
The Blu-ray of Crimson Peak comes with a fairly generous spread of special features, including a scene-specific commentary with Guillermo del Toro, about 70 minutes of featurettes and 4 ½ minutes of deleted scenes. The DVD edition has a smaller haul, including the commentary, the deleted scenes and only two of the featurettes. Both editions contain previews for other releases – the difference being that the Blu-ray uses online previews while the DVD has them on the actual disc.
Feature Commentary with Guillermo del Toro (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Guillermo del Toro contributes a scene-specific commentary, talking the viewer completely through the story of the movie. Unlike other commentaries, this one really focuses more on the characters and the story than the on-set production details.
Deleted Scenes (4:26 Total, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Five deleted scenes are included here, mostly providing some added character moments here and there. There’s a bit more time spent with Jim Beaver’s Carter Cushing, a spooky moment with Thomas Sharpe and an added accent with Lucille Sharpe. There’s nothing particularly necessary here, but each of the moments has its own beauty – particularly a deleted New York park scene.
I Remember Crimson Peak (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This is actually a series of four featurettes, each covering a specific area of Allerdale Hall, each with a written introduction by del Toro:
The Gothic Corridor (4:06, 1080p) – This featurette covers the design of the spooky main corridor in Allerdale Hall. Del Toro discusses that corridors are the scariest settings in his nightmares, and he’s clearly gone to some loving detail in making this corridor as creepy as possible. During this featurette, the participants mention that the archways in the hall actually have TEETH.
The Scullery (4:24, 1080p) – This featurette covers the design and work in the house’s kitchen, which cast members discuss as being the heart of the house.
The Red Clay Mines (5:18, 1080p) – This featurette covers the design and work in the mines that lie beneath Allerdale Hall (and into which the house appears to be sinking…).
The Limbo Fog Set (5:42, 1080p) – (SPOILERS HERE) This featurette covers the design and work of the exterior house area where the movie’s climactic fight ends. This is probably the brightest set in the movie, mostly consisting of white fog surrounding the top of Thomas’ mining invention. Due to concerns about wind, this area was actually constructed inside a stage. (To be fair, a similar situation for The Shining was handled outside – but that was with Stanley Kubrick taking months to wait for the quietest wind conditions…)
A Primer in Gothic Romance (5:36, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette covers the basic definition of the genre at hand here, with Guillermo del Toro and the cast discussing the difference between Gothic Horror and Gothic Romance.
The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak (7:53, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This featurette goes through the basic design elements and filming ideas for the movie’s presentation of New York City and Allerdale Hall. Where the former has a brushed golden appearance, the latter is decidedly darker and colder.
Hand-Tailored Gothic (8:58, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette covers the wardrobe design work of Kate Hawley, with attention given to the difference between the look of Edith Cushing and the tattered splendor of the Sharpe siblings.
A Living Thing (12:11, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette covers the design work by the Art Department in creating the sets of Allerdale Hall aka Crimson Peak. Among the areas covered here is the fact that the very walls and floors of the sets are designed to literally ooze red clay.
Beware of Crimson Peak (7:51, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD)– This is a set tour of the Allerdale Hall main set, led by Tom Hiddleston on the day that the company finished working there. Intercut with the tour are moments of on-set video and clips from the movie.
Crimson Phantoms (7:02, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette covers the work done by the on-set Makeup Effects team to create the stark red ghosts seen in the movie. There are some interesting moments included from the filming, with del Toro directing the actor underneath the red latex.
DVD Edition – An SD DVD of the movie is included in the packaging, containing the movie in an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English, Spanish and French (@448 kbps), as well as the English DVS track. The DVD also holds the Guillermo del Toro commentary, the five deleted scenes and The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak and Beware of Crimson Peak.
Digital and Ultraviolet Copies – Instructions for obtaining digital and Ultraviolet copies of the movie are available on an insert in the packaging.
The film and special features are subtitled in English, French and Spanish. The usual pop-up menu is present, along with a complete chapter menu.
Crimson Peak is a lovely movie to watch and hear, but sadly it is not one with much of a story. Guillermo del Toro has crafted a beautiful picture book of Gothic Romance, but like its primary setting of haunted Allerdale Hall, it’s mostly empty. If you’re looking for reference quality picture and sound, this Blu-ray is a great disc to have on hand. The problem is that the movie contained therein simply doesn’t have enough substance to sustain interest.