Crimson Peak is definitely a passion project for director Guillermo del Toro. He loves gothic romances, he seems to have spared no expense in creating his vision, and got great actors to appear in the film. It is a genre that has not been in fashion for a while, which may explain why the film didn’t make much of a ripple in terms of box office, but as the film is deeply committed to its vision, it may yet find its audience.
Mia Wasikowska stars as Edith Cushing, a young woman who is not interested in suitors or titles until she meets Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a baronet who comes to town hoping to get financing for his new drill. Edith’s father (Jim Beaver) thinks Thomas and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) are simply con artists hoping to marry for money, which is why he writes Thomas a check to leave his daughter alone. But then the father is murdered and Edith marries Thomas, so she goes off to his estate in England, Allerdale Hall, a home that is in great disrepair. As is stated at the beginning of the film, Edith has long been warned to stay clear of Crimson Peak by ghosts, but it is only too late that she comes to realize her new home has that moniker.
From the beginning of his career, del Toro is a filmmaker who’s been able to create scale out of scraps, and here he is set design heaven as he seemingly has the budget to create his vision, so the old world New York and the English estate are set designed to the nines. Even in its dilapidated state, Allerdale is a completed conceived location, with multiple levels and perfectly situation geography. Thematically, these locations also work wonders as there is lots of tunnels and chambers that bleed red clay so the film is stuffed with vaginal imagery of birthing (and rebirthing) chambers.
Visually, there is so much going on that you have to wonder if del Toro (and co-screenwriter Matthew Robbins) are being so completely faithful to the genre that they obviously love that they forgot to mix things up, narratively speaking. The film seems to hinge on a mystery, but if you know del Toro, it’s not surprise that the ghosts aren’t evil, and the central mystery of who Thomas Sharpe is and what he and his sister have been up to is a non-starter. A twist or reveal that could complicate the narrative never happens, which is odd. The film showcases del Toro in total control, and as such it’s a complete vision, but one in which the design is more important than the plot. Who knew del Toro could be the next Tim Burton?
Also appearing in the movie: Charlie Hunnam.
Universal Blu-ray comes with a DVD and digital copy. The film is presented in an immaculate widescreen transfer (1.85:1) and in DTS-HD 7.1 master audio. This is a fabulous home video transfer and as the film was shot digitally, it looks as good as it did when it was in theaters. The film comes with an impassioned commentary track by del Toro, who references the numerous source materials that influenced the film and he spends a lot of time talking about the design of the film and his performers. Guillermo has always been great at commentary tracks, and this is no exception. There’s also numerous featurettes to accompany the film, many of which come with quotes from the director to intro them.
The extras kick off with five deleted scenes: “The Park” (1 min.) focuses on Edith’s introduction to the Sharpes, “Thomas’ Presentation” (1 min.) allows more time with Thomas’ invention, “Father Consoles Daughter” (1 min.) gives an additional beat to Edith’s pain in briefly losing her beau, “Thomas Sees a Ghost” (1 min.) shows that Thomas is aware of the supernatural in his home, while “Lucille at the Piano” (1 min.) shows Lucille stewing as Thomas and Edith spend a night in a hotel.
The featurettes start with “I Remember Crimson Peak,” which offers four pieces on the sets of the film. “The Gothic Corridor” (4 min.), “The Scullery” (4 min.) “The Red Clay Mines” (5 min.) and “The Limbo Fog Set” (6 min.) get comments from the cast and crew that mixed with behind the scenes footage for a look at how these sets were constructed and used in the film. “A Primer on Gothic Romance” (6 min.) has del Toro and the cast talking about the genre from the film is drawn, while “The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak” (8 min.) takes a look at the film’s color design and cinematography. “Hand Tailored Gothic” (9 min.) gets into the costume design for the film, while “A Living Thing” (12 min.) looks at the Allerdale Hall up close. “Beware of Crimson Peak” (8 min.) has Tom Hiddleston walk through Allerdale Hall right before the set is to be struck, while “Crimson Phantoms” (7 min.) shows that most of the ghost effects were done practically on set. These are all thoughtful additional features and they offer a great glimpse behind the making of the film.