Blu-ray Review: “Crimson Peak”

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam and Jim Beaver
Directed By: Guillermo Del Toro
Distributed by: Universal
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 119 Minutes
Release Date: February 9th 2016

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 5 out of 5 stars

Universal did a disservice this past fall in marketing Guillermo Del Toro’s gorgeous gothic romance Crimson Peak as straight up ‘horror film’. It has its share of ghosts and oozes atmosphere but it’s far from the slasher genre. Hopefully this Gothic romance will find a larger audience as it makes way onto Blu-ray and DVD today.

Synopsis: Mia Wasikowska stars as Edith Cushing an aspiring ghost story author in 1901 Buffalo, New York. She’s won over by mysterious English baronet Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) who, along with sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), is seeking to do business with her father (Jim Beaver). Upon the brutal death of her father, Edith is off to England to become the Lady of the Sharpe’s ancestral home, the ominous Allerdale Hall. There, Edith contends with the decaying architecture, ghostly warnings and the Sharpes’ own secrets coming to light.

Blu-Ray Review: Crimson Peak was one of my favorite films of 2015 (you can read my full theatrical review here). Hiddleston and Chastain make for a formidable brother-sister duo opposite Wasikowska’s tenacious Edith whose character only grows stronger as the film progresses. The real achievement of the film however is Del Toro’s impressive production design team. From Tom Sanders’s meticulously detailed sets, especially the built-from-scratch rooms of Allerdale Hall–to Kate Hawley’s fairytale-ready costume designs, the film is visually jaw dropping. All the better then to see it again on blu-ray now where I was excited to pore over more details than I could catch quickly on the big screen.

In this regard the special features on this disc definitely deliver. Several featurettes cover every aspect of Peak‘s world particularly “A Living Thing” which sees the sets of Allerdale Hall worked and reworked from scale models to the final product over a five month period. Tom Hiddleston then offers a walking tour of “the biggest and most extraordinary set [he has] ever seen” in “Beware of Crimson Peak” as we see how functional the set was in action. His commentary adds somewhat wistfully that this was the last day the set was up, but what a relief this release sees them so fully documented.

Del Toro’s commentary track finishes off the extras and, as expected, is filled with the director speaking about influences and inspirations for the film whether from art or film history. The whole thing is worth a listen, but if you’re not so into commentary viewing I gleaned my five favorite trivia bits (spoilers, of course):

  • The ghostly appearance of Edith’s mother in the opening of the film was based on Del Toro’s own mother’s experience in seeing his grandmother’s ghost on the very day of her funeral. Del Toro also speaks about having stayed in his own haunted hotel room in New Zealand when scouting locations for The Hobbit (when he was still attached to direct).
  • In the New York party scene, Del Toro had to restructure the waltz performed by Thomas and Edith to be only performed by Hiddleston and Wasikowska, lest the production have to shell out over a million more dollars in upgrading his acting extras to ‘dancers’.
  • The hallway of Edith’s childhood home is patterned in the same way as Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, a favorite of Del Toro’s.
  • Del Toro decided he wanted to flop the gender norms of the Gothic Romance in Crimson Peak. In this spirit, he cast Charlie Hunnam’s Dr. Allan as ‘the damsel in distress’ in the latter sequences of the film (to which Hunnam eagerly agreed) and flipped what GDT dubbed ‘the nudity quotient’ in the intimate scene between Hiddleston and Wasikowska.
  • As Edith gets further into danger at Allerdale Hall, the actual props around her were scaled up in proportion to Edith. Things like a wingback chair and the ominous teacup were made roughly 30% larger than they originally appeared. (No doubt inflicting some Wonderland deja vü for Wasikowska!)

Crimson Peak is available on Bluray and digitally now. Meanwhile, you can check out a look at some of the set featurettes from Universal Home Video below: