CRIMSON PEAK (2015). Review by Steve Kirkham

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CRIMSON PEAK (2015)

4 stars
Arrow Films. Limited Edition 4K UHD. Out Now

Guillermo del Toro has always been one the most visual directors working today – and CRIMSON PEAK is a prime example. It opens intriguingly with a bloodied Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing (a tribute to a certain Hammer actor?). She is outside as the wind whistles around her – “Ghosts are real” she intones via voiceover.

Flashback to her as a young girl – scared in the night as the ghost of her mother visits her – who warns her “…beware of Crimson Peak”. A great, spooky opening – beautifully eerie, drawing you into the narrative that is about to unfold.

14 years later, Edith, the daughter of wealthy businessman Carter Cushing (Jim Beaver), is an aspiring author, faced with the attitudes of the day and those of her father. She invokes Mary Shelley as an influence – being a woman in the 1880s she is inevitable treated poorly for her ambitions. Soon, she meets English aristocrat Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), who is seeking investment from her father into his invention – a digging machine that would revive the fortunes of his family’s clay mines. She also meets his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). Edith soon becomes enamoured of Sharpe – though her father would rather she had eyes for Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam).

In order to get his way her father bribes the Sharpes to leave America and break his daughter’s heart in the process. However, when Carter is brutally murdered, Edith learns of the bribery and reconciles with Thomas and before long they are married and they travel to England and to Allerdale Hall, the Sharpes’ rotting, rundown mansion – a place which is as much the star of the film as the actors. She learns that it sits atop Crimson Peak. Remember the warning…

What will Edith discover there… what ghostly nightmares… what secrets will she uncover?

A film that has always looked fabulous looks even more so on this ravishing 4K release. A classic gothic romance ghost story – this is visionary director del Toro’s love letter to the likes of the Corman Poe films, Mario Bava, Hammer and literature like Rebecca.

The disc splendidly shows off the lush cinematography of Dan Laustsen, the gorgeous and dramatic production design by Thomas E. Sanders and the lavish costumes by Kate Hawley. This is a feast for the eyes.

A beautifully wrought tale skilfully helmed by del Toro from a script by him and Matthew Robbins. Built on creepy atmosphere, it is true that it could be accused of being style over substance, but who cares when it looks so captivating. The sweeping romantic score by Fernando Velázquez bolsters the visuals.

Steve Kirkham

EXTRAS
4 stars

An everything you wanted to know about CRIMSON PEAK bunch of extras:

Audio commentary by co-writer and director Guillermo del Toro
The House is Alive: Constructing Crimson Peak, (50 mins) an excellent overview
Spanish language interview with Guillermo del Toro (8 mins)
Allerdale Hall – 4 featurettes on the featured mansion (19mins)
A Primer on Gothic Romance (5 mins)
The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak (7 mins) about the use of colour in the film.
Hand Tailored Gothic (8 mins) a featurette on the costumes
A Living Thing, (12 mins) a look at the design, modelling and construction of the Allerdale Hall sets
Beware of Crimson Peak, (7 mins) Tom Hiddleston gives a tour of Allerdale Hall
Crimson Phantoms (7 mins) about the amazing ghosts
Kim Newman on Crimson Peak and the Tradition of Gothic Romance (17 mins)
Violence and Beauty in Guillermo del Toro’s Gothic Fairy Tale Films, a video essay by the writer Kat Ellinger (23 mins)
Deleted scenes (4 mins)
Plus the usual Image gallery, Original trailers and TV spots

Plus you get : Double-sided, fold-out poster
Four double-sided postcards
Limited edition packaging designed by Crimson Peak concept artist Guy Davis
Limited edition 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