Blu-Ray Review – Crimson Peak

Crimson Peak is a gothic romance, complete with ghosts and a haunted house, although was sold (misleadingly) as a horror movie. Guillermo Del Toro’s film begins in 1887, as Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska), the daughter of a wealthy businessman, is visited by her mother’s ghost. The apparition tells her to beware of Crimson Peak. Now a budding author of ghost stories, she meets Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a baronet who—unbeknownst to Edith, until it’s too late—turns out to be the owner of a house on a crimson peak.

Sharpe becomes smitten with Edith during a trip in search of investors for the company he owns with his sister. Her father is opposed to his proposed invention, but he becomes involved with Edith anyway. After Sharpe abruptly ends the relationship, Edith’s father suddenly dies, opening the way for their romance to resume. Sharpe takes his new bride to his house, which is on a red clay cliff. However, her childhood friend Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) has his suspicions about her new husband from the start. The relationship between Sharpe and his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) also looks a bit too close for comfort.

Both the director and some critics have compared Crimson Peak to his Spanish-language films, and stylistically that is certainly true, although his Hellboy films are as personal as his Spanish-language films in their own way. Since Crimson Peak‘s release, Del Toro has released The Shape of Water, which is far closer to his Spanish films and easily his best American film. Like the Spanish films, it merges the fairy tale with a deeply anti-authoritarian political message.

The opening scene comes straight from Del Toro’s personal mythology bank, like the imagery in Pan’s Labyrinth. The plot maintains suspense, although viewers can guess a few things about where it might be going. The story is as full of twists and turns as the mansion itself, where things are certainly not as they appear to be. The director’s distinctive eye for design and detail is there throughout, but that is true even with Del Toro’s big-budget films. The cast do a fine job, with good performances from all—all the actors are consistently good, so that’s no real surprise.

The new disc by Arrow ports over the full list of previous special features from the Universal disc, including Del Toro’s commentary track, a host of featurettes and deleted scenes. The major new inclusions are a Spanish-language interview with Del Toro, plus a newly edited documentary of previous interviews and behind the scenes footage. Kim Newman holds forth on the history of gothic romance, and Kat Ellinger supplies a video essay on Del Toro’s films. It all comes in a very handsome hardcase with a hard-bound book of essays, an interview with Del Toro, and concept art, alongside a poster and six lobby cards.

★★★★½

Ian Schultz

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