Lavish Period Horror, Lame CGI

Crimson Peak should be known for its all-star cast and sumptuous visuals, possibly the best-looking period horror flick made since Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Alas, director Guillermo del Toro’s haunting film is more known for disjointed storytelling and a blatant disregard for its audience’s intelligence. Somewhat misleadingly marketed by Universal as a creepy ghost story, Crimson Peak is better understood as a twisted Gothic romance cum thriller while adding a few ghosts for jump scares.

Star Tom Hiddleston’s performance is almost worth the price of admission, investing an underwritten character with incredible craft and patience. The acclaimed actor was born for these kind of period roles playing a mysterious love interest hiding something from his beloved. Frankly, Hiddleston’s abilities elevate an uneven movie and you wonder how his career would have developed in Hollywood if he wasn’t cast as Loki in the MCU.

Crimson Peak is better understood as a twisted Gothic romance cum thriller while adding a few ghosts for jump scares

His co-star is Australian actress Mia Wasikowska (Stoker), who certainly has the look of a downtrodden heroine suffering for love in a late 19th-Century Gothic romance. Having already starred in Jane Eyre, you can see their thinking process in Mia’s selection. She’s a steady performer who probably shouldn’t be the lead in a big studio film however, lacking a certain presence and charisma necessary for commercial movies. She’s not bad but brings nothing special to Crimson Peak or its central romance, which sorely needs a dynamic actress in her spot.

Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is a reserved American woman and aspiring writer, the daughter of a wealthy businessman. Living in Buffalo near the turn of the century, Edith falls for the smooth charms of poor English nobleman Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Sharpe’s close sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) accompanies him on this business trip to America, hiding secrets of her own.

After marrying Edith, Thomas whisks her off to the decrepit Allerdale Hall. Allerdale is his family’s dilapidated English mansion built upon a mountain of special blood-stained clay that seeps up during the cold winters. Thomas begins plowing Edith’s considerable fortune into his desperate business schemes digging up the clay. Tormented by spirits living within Allerdale Hall, Edith’s health slowly slips away as Lucille grows increasingly hostile at her brother’s new wife.

The sets and costumes are amazing, the best production design seen in horror since Coppola tackled Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Some have hailed Crimson Peak as a visual masterpiece and they aren’t wrong. It’s a big budget studio film with real movie stars and a beloved genre director in Guillermo del Toro. Hiddleston is quite charming and Chastain chews the scenery as the possessive sister.

Sounds like a classic, right? The problems in Crimson Peak are myriad with a couple of real deal-breakers. In what is otherwise a pure period piece by mood and tone, the ghosts are blatantly shown in schlocky CGI I believe left over from Pirates of the Caribbean. I realize practical effects are largely dead in studio filmmaking but the decision here to use somewhat radical CGI repeatedly drew me out of the suspenseful set pieces. It’s only thanks to Guillermo del Toro’s stylish direction and pacing the frights remain effective.

My other primary complaint is how Crimson Peak’s final act plays out. The rushed, illogical way everything unfolds is almost breathtaking in its stupidity. Characters are mostly playthings to its plot twists, introduced for specific purposes and then discarded when convenient.

Twists are one thing but you get the feeling someone above the director imposed a two-hour deadline on the running time. The film’s primary twist can be seen coming a mile away, thanks to a few corny choices made earlier in the screenplay. What should end with dramatic emotional weight delivers an empty, lifeless finish.

Crimson Peak is an interesting failure in Guillermo del Toro’s career. It’s not a good film on the whole but parts are nigh brilliant. Its CGI effects are unique but don’t easily fit within this middling ghost story. This is Gothic romance writ macabre with a few violent splashes tossed in to remind viewers this is a horror film.

Video

Crimson Peak’s immaculate digital intermediate was mastered at 2K resolution likely thanks to its copious CGI, filmed using pristine 2.8K video from razor-sharp Arri Alexa cameras. Arrow video licenses the 2015 horror film from Universal. Crimson Peak is technically an upscale in 4K resolution on UHD but a magnificent Dolby Vision layer handled by Fidelity In Motion, replete with a splendid color grade, is a major improvement over standard Blu-ray. Personally approved by director Guillermo del Toro, the 1.85:1 presentation is drop-dead gorgeous on UHD.

A period piece through and through, the color correction subtly shifts from sepia and amber in Buffalo to darker tones in Allerdale Hall’s imposing facade. Richly Gothic in atmosphere, this supernatural period thriller receives an impressive 4K presentation bursting with stark HDR.

The clay pits found underneath Allerdale Hall bubble with vivid splashes of crimson, almost surreal in their dazzling glow. Its inky black levels and perfect contrast make for striking clarity and definition. The depth and shadow delineation easily enhance the spookiest ghosts.

Arrow Video gives it one of the best HEVC video encodes I’ve seen in recent years handling a number of difficult scenes involving delicate steam and snow. The unfiltered 4K video possesses abundant texture and detail. Easily Guillermo del Toro’s most lavish visual production, Crimson Peak is a shining example of why UHD and Dolby Vision are necessary for videophiles.

Audio

Arrow Video retains the same fantastic DTS:X audio found on the prior Blu-rays, which plays in 7.1 DTS-HD MA for receivers unequipped with that format. The DTS competitor to Dolby Atmos, Crimson Peak’s meticulous sound design is a great candidate for high-end surround mixing. Ghosts immersively roam Allerdale Hall and there’s a delicious sonic atmosphere in the haunted house. Nice dynamics and effortless dialogue reproduction float around the soundstage, showcasing the opulent production values.

One of the earliest “next-gen” surround mixes, Crimson Peak’s audio is a home theater delight. Packing generous LFE and intricate directional cues, it keeps pace with the very best Dolby Atmos soundtracks. Moody organ playing haunts the score in supreme fidelity. The romance’s most pivotal scene is set to a waltz which smoothly envelops listeners in gentle immersion.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font. Optional Descriptive Video Service for the visually impaired is an option. The last audio choice is something you rarely find on home video, a 2.0 DTS Headphone:X soundtrack intended for headphone listeners.

Extras

Arrow Video basically rehashes their 2019 Blu-ray edition on 4K UHD, pulling over all extant special features including an informative commentary by Guillermo del Toro. There are new extras included. It’s a beautiful limited edition 4K UHD release, housed in a gorgeous outer box with art by the film’s conceptual artist Guy Davis.

You’ll want to grab the limited edition since it includes an 80-page, hard-bound book featuring writing by David Jenkins and Simon Abrams, an archival interview with Guillermo del Toro, and original conceptual design illustrations by artists Guy Davis and Oscar Chichoni. Not to mention a poster and four double-sided postcards.

Unlike many other labels working in this space, the bonus features are found on the UHD. Kudos to Arrow Video for that decision.

Audio Commentary by Co-Writer and Director Guillermo del Toro – Brought over from the original Blu-ray release, it’s a lucid discussion of his aims with this project.

The House is Alive: Constructing Crimson Peak (50:01 in HD) – Someone has made a feature-length documentary from the cast and crew interviews with extensive behind the scenes footage. It’s an assembly built from the many other featurettes found on this disc.

An Interview with Guillermo del Toro (08:36 in HD, Spanish audio with English subtitles) – Previously unseen archival interview.

Allerdale Hall: Four Featurettes – A deep dive into the set design and the film’s creepy effects

The Gothic Corridor (04:07 in HD)

The Scullery (04:25 in HD)

The Red Clay Mines (05:19 in HD)

The Limbo Fog Set (05:43 in HD)

A Primer on Gothic Romance (05:37 in HD)

The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak (07:54 in HD)

Hand Tailored Gothic (08:59 in HD)

A Living Thing (12:12 in HD)

Beware of Crimson Peak (07:52 in HD)

Crimson Phantoms (07:03 in HD)

Kim Newman on Crimson Peak and the Tradition of Gothic Romance (17:37 in HD) – Arrow video favorite Kim Newman delves into del Toro’s style and penchant for genre filmmaking.

Violence and Beauty in Guillermo del Toro’s Gothic Fairy Tale Films (23:37 in HD) – A visual essay by writer and critic Kat Ellinger.

Deleted Scenes (04:41 in HD)

International Trailer (02:28 in HD)

Theatrical Trailer (02:36 in HD)

TV Spots (01:05 in HD)

Production Stills Image Gallery (03:00 in HD)

Behind the Scenes Image Gallery (02:50 in HD)

Full disclosure: This UHD was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

Crimson Peak
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  • Extras
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Movie

Guillermo del Toro’s lavish Gothic horror thriller is sheer style over substance with star Tom Hiddleston doing his very best salvaging an ill-conceived final act

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3 (3 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 43 full resolution, uncompressed 4K screen shots ripped directly from the UHD:


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