DirectorGuillermo del Toro
Release Date(s)2015 (October 22, 2019)
Studio(s)Legendary Pictures/Universal Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A-
Crimson Peak was released in 2015 to middling reviews and an unsatisfactory box office take. Directed by Guillermo del Toro, it tells the story of a young woman named Edith (Mia Wasikowska) who is haunted by ghosts, feeling the need to write stories about them. After falling in love with and marrying a clay-mining aristocrat named Thomas (Tom Hiddleston), she moves with him and his unusual sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) to their dilapidated home in England. Not only is the house falling apart due to the red clay seeping into the building’s structure while Thomas’ new invention mines it out of the Earth, but it’s also haunted. Restless spirits wander its dark and decaying corridors, subsequently attempting to warn Edith of an unseen danger.
While most would perceive Crimson Peak to be a period horror film, it’s actually a gothic romance, comparable to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but with the look of Italian horror films from directors like Mario Bava. It’s one of the most colorful and meticulously crafted genre films in recent memory. Most modern horror sucks the color out of its palette, whereas Crimson Peak is rich with bold primaries. It’s an absolutely lush and visually-engaging piece of work. Yet on the other hand, the narrative within these beautiful confines isn’t as enthralling. It’s fairly predictable, and if you’re any kind of a film fan, you’ll likely guess the twists long before they occur. It’s a conundrum since so few mainstream filmmakers these days go so aggressively after specific artistic visions—it’s something not just to be commended, but appreciated and celebrated. As such, Crimson Peak is not so much a failure as it is a visually arresting, if hollow, work of art.
Arrow Video’s Blu-ray re-release of the film, which was previously available in a Limited Edition Blu-ray package (reviewed here), features a remarkably strong presentation, which is taken from the same master. As noted, the film has a distinctive look, and any flaws it contains, such as crushed blacks, are intended as part of that look. That said, this is a gorgeous high definition presentation. Shot digitally, it’s ripe with fine detail. The color palette is amazing, and although skin tones tend to dip due to the aggressive grading, it’s another aspect of the intended look. Black levels are extremely deep, and both brightness and contrast levels are perfect. There are no signs of digital sharpening or augmentation, nor are there any signs of any other anomalies. Digital cinematography doesn’t usually lend itself to depth, but this is an exception. It’s beautiful.
Audio options include English 7.1 DTS-X, English 2.0 DTS-X for headphones, and an English 2.0 DVS audio track. The 7.1 track is a terrific surround sound experience. Dialogue is mostly front and center, save for the few times when it’s mixed into the other speakers. The same goes for sound effects, as well as the score, giving the rear speakers impressive fidelity. Spatial activity is abundant, with events frequently occurring all around. Ambience and LFE also play an important role in giving the old house its aural personality. Subtitles are included in English SDH. It’s worth noting (for those keeping track) that the original Blu-ray release from Universal Pictures included both audio and subtitle options in Spanish and French.
Essentially a slimmed down version of their previous Limited Edition, this release carries over everything aside from the deluxe packaging, the double-sided fold-out poster, the four double-sided postcards, and the 76-page hardcover booklet. The disc-based content remains the same, including an audio commentary with del Toro; The House is Alive: Constructing Crimson Peak, a 50-minute documentary about the making of the film; a 9-minute Spanish-language interview with del Toro; the four part Allerdale Hall (I Remember Crimson Peak) featurette (The Gothic Corridor, The Scullery, The Red Clay Mines, The Limbo Fog Set); A Primer on Gothic Romance, a 6-minute featurette that explores the origins of the genre; The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak, an 8-minute featurette that goes over the film’s use of color; Hand Tailored Gothic, a 9-minute featurette which covers the film’s costume design; A Living Thing, a 12-minute featurette that covers the design and construction of the Allerdale Hall set; Beware of Crimson Peak, an 8-minute tour of the set with Tom Hiddleston; Crimson Phantoms, a 7-minute featurette about the film’s ghosts; Kim Newman on Crimson Peak and the Tradition of Gothic Romance, an 18-minute interview with the film historian about the gothic romance genre; Violence and Beauty in Guillermo del Toro’s Gothic Fairy Tale Films, a 24-minute video essay by Kat Ellinger about the content of del Toro’s work and how it relates to literature and film; a set of five deleted scenes with a Play All option (The Park, Thomas’ Presentation, Father Consoles Daughter, Thomas Sees a Ghost, Lucille at the Piano); the international and theatrical trailers; 2 TV spots; and 2 image galleries featuring 18 production stills and 17 behind the scenes photos.
There’s no way a horror fan can’t appreciate aspects of Crimson Peak. It’s among Guillermo del Toro’s most beautifully-conceived works. It may be lacking in certain areas, but it’s worth the price of admission for its visuals alone. Arrow Video’s Blu-ray re-release of the film offers a perfect presentation both visually and aurally with an array of outstanding bonus materials. If you can still get your hands on the Limited Edition Blu-ray set, it might be the more desirable option, but this release makes for a fine alternative.
– Tim Salmons